The storm couldn't have come at a worse time for Haitians struggling to deal with the effects of Saturday's 7.2 magnitude earthquake, blamed for an estimated 1,400 deaths.
Tropical depression Grace has swept over Haiti with drenching rains just two days after a powerful earthquake battered the impoverished Caribbean nation.
It has added to the misery of thousands who lost loved ones, suffered injuries or found themselves homeless and forcing overwhelmed hospitals and rescuers to act quickly.
After nightfall, heavy rain and strong winds whipped at the country's southwestern area, hit hardest by Saturday's quake, and officials warned that rainfall could reach 38 centimetres (15 inches ) in some areas before the storm moved on. Port-au-Prince, the capital, also saw heavy rains.
The storm arrived on the same day that the country's Civil Protection Agency raised the death toll from the earthquake to 1,419 and the number of injured to 6,000, many of whom have had to wait for medical help lying outside in wilting heat.
Grace's rain and wind raised the threat of mudslides and flash flooding as it slowly passed by southwestern Haiti's Tiburon Peninsula overnight, before heading toward Jamaica and southeastern Cuba on Tuesday.
The quake nearly wrecked some towns in the southwest in the latest disaster to befall the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.
Haitians already were struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, gang violence, worsening poverty and the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
“We are in an exceptional situation,” Prime Minister Ariel Henry told reporters Monday afternoon as the storm approached.
A hospital in the badly damaged town of Les Cayes was so crowded with patients after the earthquake that many had to lie in patios, corridors, verandas and hallways, but the approaching storm had officials scrambling to relocate them as best they could.
“We had planned to put up tents (in hospital patios), but we were told that could not be safe,” said Gede Peterson, director of Les Cayes General Hospital.
It is not the first time the hospital has been forced to improvise. The refrigeration in the hospital’s morgue has not worked for three months, but after the earthquake struck Saturday, staff had to store as many as 20 bodies in the small space. Relatives quickly came to take most to private embalming services or immediate burial. By Monday, only three bodies were in the morgue.
“We are working now to ensure that the resources we have are going to get to the places that are hardest hit,” said Civil Protection Agency head Jerry Chandler, referring to the hard-hit towns of Les Cayes and Jeremie and the department of Nippes.
Rescue efforts continue
Meanwhile, rescuers and scrap metal scavengers dug into the floors of a collapsed hotel in the coastal town, where 15 bodies had already been extracted. Jean Moise Fortune, whose brother, the hotel owner and a prominent politician, was killed in the quake, believed there were more people trapped in the rubble.
But based on the size of voids that workers cautiously peered into, perhaps a foot (30 centimetres) in depth, finding survivors appeared unlikely.
As work, fuel and money ran out, desperate Les Cayes residents searched collapsed houses for scrap metal to sell.
Others waited for money wired from abroad, a mainstay of Haiti’s economy even before the quake.
Officials said the magnitude 7.2 earthquake left more than 7,000 homes destroyed and nearly 5,000 damaged from the quake, leaving some 30,000 families homeless. Hospitals, schools, offices and churches also were destroyed or badly damaged.