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Tropical Storm Chantal Claims 1st Casualty in Caribbean

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By Jacob Cherian | July 12, 2013 9:32 AM EST

Reports have confirmed the death of one individual as tropical storm Chantal swirled past a southern island in the Dominican Republic – the island of Hispaniola.

There was a threat of Chantal converting into a hurricane as it headed for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, while authorities in these two countries and Puerto Rico have warned of flooding that may result in landslides.

Authorities have begun evacuation of high risk communities that might experience flooding. The floods will be a problem for some of the most vulnerable communities in the region – some people here live in temporary shacks made of plywood and steel.

Even if Chantal weakens, it is likely to create a catastrophe for the Haiti and the Dominican Republic’s southwest. Landslides due to flooding is common in Hispaniola and temporary housing and deforestation have taken a toll on Haiti, still recovering from a recent quake.

According to the U.S. National Hurricane Centre Chantal lost some of its power and was degraded to a tropical wave at 21:00 GMT. However the storm was accompanied by heavy winds and rains. It was headed in a northerly direction to Cuba, and touch Florida and the Bahamas. Forecasters say that the storm would quell into a tropical depression by Thursday.

Chantal moved towards the Caribbean Tuesday and its first casualty was a fire-fighter from the Dominican Juan Ramon Rodriguez, 26. He was swept away by floods while trying to fix a storm drain in Maimon, 85 kilometres away from Santo Domingo.

The death was confirmed by the Dominican Republic’s civil defense agency director Luis Luna in an Associated Press report.

The director of the Emergency Operations Centre, Juan Manuel Mendez, told AP, “We’re not in the clear yet.” A welder, 40, said in Port-au-Prince, “There’s not much I can do,” “Still, I will try to protect myself and my children.”

 A news report by BBC News said Chantal in closing in on Kingston, Jamaica and heading west.

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