LES CAYES, Haiti (AP) — Tropical Depression Grace swept over Haiti with drenching rains just two days after a powerful earthquake battered the impoverished Caribbean nation, adding to the misery of thousands who lost loved ones, suffered injuries or found themselves homeless and forcing overwhelmed hospitals and rescuers to act quickly.
After nightfall, heavy rain and strong winds whipped at the country’s southwestern area, hit hardest by Saturday’s quake, and officials warned that rainfall could reach 15 inches (38 centimeters) in some areas before the storm moved on. Port-au-Prince, the capital, also saw heavy rains.
The storm arrived on the same day that the country’s Civil Protection Agency raised the death toll from the earthquake to 1,419 and the number of injured to 6,000, many of whom have had to wait for medical help lying outside in wilting heat.
Grace’s rain and wind raised the threat of mudslides and flash flooding as it slowly passed by southwestern Haiti’s Tiburon Peninsula overnight, before heading toward .Jamaica and southeastern Cuba on Tuesday.
The quake nearly wrecked some towns in the southwest in the latest disaster to befall the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. Haitians already were struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, gang violence, worsening poverty and the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
“We are in an exceptional situation,” Prime Minister Ariel Henry told reporters Monday afternoon as the storm approached.
A hospital in the badly damaged town of Les Cayes was so crowded with patients after the earthquake that many had to lie in patios, corridors, verandas and hallways, but the approaching storm had officials scrambling to relocate them as best they could.
“We had planned to put up tents (in hospital patios), but we were told that could not be safe,” said Gede Peterson, director of Les Cayes General Hospital.
It is not the first time the hospital has been forced to improvise. The refrigeration in the hospital’s morgue has not worked for three months, but after the earthquake struck Saturday, staff had to store as many as 20 bodies in the small space. Relatives quickly came to take most to private embalming services or immediate burial. By Monday, only three bodies were in the morgue.
“We are working now to ensure that the resources we have are going to get to the places that are hardest hit,” said Civil Protection Agency head Jerry Chandler, referring to the hard-hit towns of Les Cayes and Jeremie and the department of Nippes.
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