In Haiti, UN staff at the ready as hurricane bears down on northern coast

22 August 2011

United Nations staff in Haiti have activated their emergency response systems to prepare for tonight’s expected arrival of Hurricane Irene as it crosses the Caribbean region.

Irene was upgraded from a tropical storm and Haitian authorities have issued a “red alert” for the entire country, although the hurricane is expected to hit hardest along the country’s north coast, according to information released today by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Working with the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH), OCHA has activated an emergency joint response centre and an expanded joint operation centre.

The UN is helping authorities and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with a public awareness campaign focused on highly populated areas and on markets, while an evacuation assessment started earlier today.

Hurricane Irene, which is also expect to batter the Dominican Republic later today, is currently moving westward, but may turn northward later and head towards the south-eastern United States.

Haiti, still fragile after the catastrophic earthquake of January 2010, has been pummelled by numerous hurricanes in recent years, but escaped serious damaged from Tropical Storm Emily at the start of the month.

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Haiti: UN forces on standby for emergency relief as tropical storm nears

Nearly 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers are on emergency standby in Haiti as tropical storm Emily barrels towards the impoverished Caribbean country, which is still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.3 million others.