CAP-HAITIEN, HAITI (CBS/Reuters) — Haitians hunkered down in shelters in the northern city of Cap-Haitien on Thursday as Hurricane Irma lashed Hispaniola.
Barreling through the Caribbean, the “extremely dangerous” core of Irma was predicted to strike northern Haiti and the Dominican Republic as well as the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas on Thursday with winds of 185 miles per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The eye of Irma, a Category 5 storm, passed over the northern Virgin Islands on Wednesday after crossing the half-French, half-Dutch island of St. Martin and the Dutch islands of Saba and Sint Eustasius. Category 5 is the highest hurricane ranking used by U.S. forecasters.
Haitian authorities put the nation on alert, closing schools, moving people to shelters and mobilizing 18,000 civil and Red Cross volunteers backed by police and the military.
Local residents straggled into shelters with their families, seeking food and water and looking for friends and relatives.
Irma is expected to bring “major consequences” to northern Haiti, which also has suffered three years of drought, said Ronald Tran Ba Huy, Haiti country director for the U.N World Food Programme (WFP).
The WFP said it has food supplies across Haiti, a nation of 10.8 million people, for 150,000 people for one month, and trucks carrying emergency food aid to northern Haiti would be able to reach 40,000 people immediately.