Tomas Increases Landslide Risk In Haiti

Tropical Storm Tomas is heading toward Haiti, and forecasters are predicting heavy rains for the earthquake-ravaged island nation. The heavy rainfall could trigger dangerous landslides in a country still reeling from a string of disasters.

""Haiti has a really serious history of big landslides, almost all of them caused by tropical storm or hurricane rainfall,"" said geologist David Petley, the Wilson Professor of Hazard and Risk at Durham University in England.

Petley said the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the impoverished nation in January has only increased the risk of landslides in a country where such disasters have killed thousands in the past. The earthquake itself triggered landslides that generated small, local tsunamis.

The violent shaking of the ground during an earthquake loosens the soil, Petley told OurAmazingPlanet, so the first intense rainfall can, in turn, weaken the soil further, until the ground finally succumbs to the pull of gravity, sending massive flows of debris roaring down hillsides and slopes.

The latest update from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Fla., places Tomas on a path just to Haiti's west, but even though the center of the storm may not pass over the country, the weather is likely to turn ugly.

""Haiti will certainly be impacted by torrential rains, particularly in the mountainous areas,"" said NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen. ""Most of the rain will likely occur tonight and into tomorrow morning,"" he said. "