People cross a flooded street during the passing of Tropical Storm Laura in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Aug. 23, 2020.
People cross a flooded street during the passing of Tropical Storm Laura in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Aug. 23, 2020.

WASHINGTON/RIVIERE FROIDE, HAITI - Five people are dead in Haiti's southeast and west departments, presidential press secretary Eddy Jackson Alexis announced Sunday after Tropical Storm Laura hit the country with an estimated 200 mm (8 inches) rain and maximum sustained winds of up to 85 kph. The president and all the members of his government presented their condolences to the victims' families, Alexis tweeted.

 The press secretary said the death toll is still being assessed and that among the victims were a 10-year-old girl, a woman who was swept away by flood waters and a man who was found dead in the Bicentenaire neighborhood of the capital, Port-au-Prince, near the national palace.

In an earlier tweet Sunday, the press secretary said the Peligre Dam, a flood-controlling and energy generating hydroelectric plant in the Artibonite River valley in Haiti’s lush agricultural sector, had flooded and was subsequently opened.

"Residents of the Artibonite region, stay alert, there will be flooding in the valley. The Red Alert is still in effect for the entire country," Alexis warned.  
In Riviere Froide, in the southeastern Nippes Department, residents told VOA Creole they fear for their lives as the river threatens homes and businesses near its banks.  

"We are in grave danger because when this river overflows it causes major problems. There are people who have children who need to evacuate but they don't have the resources to do that," a man who stood on the bank of the overflowing, muddy river told VOA. He urged the government to send help immediately.   

Another male resident told VOA many of the homes on the bank of the river have multiple people living in them and that the river also swept away livestock.

"The river is a big threat to the people living near it (now)," he said.  

Video recorded by VOA Creole shows river waters sweeping away parts of makeshift, tin-roof homes. Some people are seen standing seemingly helpless on the front porch of their homes as the river creeps closer and closer. Other residents attempt to salvage property as people standing on the opposite side of the riverbank shout at them to watch out. In the background a woman screams.

Raging floodwaters of the Riviere Froide in Haiti's southwest theatens homes, Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Matiado Vilme / VOA)

Residents said some people regularly wade or swim across the river because there is no passible road they can take.   

The latest weather forecast Sunday predicts wind and thunderstorms continuing through Tuesday as Laura still threaten lives in Haiti and the Dominican Republic with flash flooding. According to the U.S.  National Hurricane Center, the tropical storm is now heading east toward Cuba.  

Tropical Storm Laura lashed Haiti with torrential rains, high winds and flash flooding. In the Riviere Froide region in the southeast, residents lives and homes are threatened by raging river waters. (Video by Matiado Vilme/VOA Creole)

Haiti’s ministry for the protection of civilians (Homeland Security) announced on Twitter that a press conference is planned for later Sunday to inform the public about the storm damage. The ministry says the prime minister, interior minister, homeland security minister and other government officials will be on hand to answer reporters' questions.   

Tropical Storm Laura hits Haiti at a time when the Caribbean nation is still struggling with the coronavirus. The latest public health ministry figures published this week indicate 8,082 infections and 196 deaths.

Tropical Storm Laura caused major flooding in the Riviere Froide region of Haiti's southeast where the raging river swept away homes and livestock, Aug. 23, 2020. (Video by Matiado Vilme/VOA Creole)

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