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Hanna drenches Haiti, killing 21

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Associated Press / September 3, 2008
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SAINT-MARC, Haiti - Families clutched mattresses, chairs, and other belongings and slogged through waist-high flood waters yesterday as Tropical Storm Hanna killed at least 21 people in Haiti. The slow-moving storm threatened to hit the southeastern US coast as a hurricane within days.

Heavy rain from the storm's outer bans fell relentlessly in Haiti, a country still recovering from drenchings by Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Fay. In all, floods and mudslides from the three storms have killed more than 100 people as Haiti's deforested hills gave way in the torrential rains.

"The situation is as bad as it can be," said Vadre Louis, a UN official in the coastal city of Gonaives.

Hanna's maximum sustained winds slipped to 70 miles per hour, but the National Hurricane Center in Miami said it could regain hurricane strength and turn toward "the east coast of Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina in two to three days."

The storm is not a threat to New Orleans, which had been largely evacuated before Gustav. Mayor C. Ray Nagin announced last night that residents could start coming back early tomorrow. But the first of the 2 million people who fled Gustav began trickling home yesterday from shelters, many grumbling about the food, the overcrowding, the uncertainty, and the wait for the all-clear.

In Florida, Governor Charlie Crist issued a state of emergency yesterday to more easily mobilize emergency responders if Hanna hits the state. But forecasters warned that the entire East Coast should keep close watch.

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