PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, (AFP) – Flooding triggered by heavy rain killed at least 11 people in Les Cayes, Haiti’s third most populous city and an area unscathed by the devastating January 12 earthquake that flattened much of the country’s capital.
Heavy rains washed more than 1.5 meters (60 inches) of water into Les Cayes, flooding the city’s hospital and prison, Haiti’s civil emergencies service said.
Witnesses said homes collapsed and people were fleeing for safer areas.
“The situation is grave…. Whole areas are completely flooded. People have climbed on to the roofs of their homes,” a local senator, Francky Exius, told AFP by telephone.
UN peacekeepers and Haitian police evacuated 500 inmates from the local prison, officials said, while hospital staff moved patients to the safety of higher floors.
Exius said five people were killed in Les Cayes’s Gelee district when rising waters flipped their vehicles.
Another three were killed in the nearby village of Torbeck, where the water “has carried away portions of the asphalt of the road,” a parliamentary deputy, Guy Gerard Georges, told AFP.
The deaths added to one other fatality in the town of Baraderes recorded by the emergencies service, and two others in the region relayed by a local journalist also contacted by AFP.
“Several towns and villages in southern Haiti are flooded,” a spokesman for the civil emergency unit said. “Continuous rain has forced people to abandon their homes.”
The coastal city of Les Cayes, on a peninsula 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, has an estimated permanent population of 70,000.
That number has swollen as survivors of the January 12 earthquake that leveled 70 percent of Port-au-Prince fled to untouched Haitian cities and towns.
The heavy rains were a portent of what Port-au-Prince could face within weeks, when the Caribbean’s wet season will wash over the exposed capital and its huddled residents.