Residents sit at the malecon as Tropical Storm Emily arrives to Santo Domingo
Residents sit at the malecon as Tropical Storm Emily arrives to Santo Domingo Reuters

Haiti is preparing for an onslaught of heavy rains, winds and possible mudslides and flash-floods as tropical storm Emily bears down on the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation.

According to reports, more than 600,000 homeless Haitians – driven out of their residences by last year’s devastating earthquake -- are in makeshift camps ahead of Emily’s arrival.

The storm -- which features top winds of 50 miles-per-hour -- is expected to first land on the country’s southern peninsula.

While the center of the storm will likely miss most of the island that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, it is expected to bring powerful rain that could create massive mudslides and flooding.

Diana Goeller, a meteorologist with the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) told Associated Press: "This storm has a lot of heavy rainfall with it. So in those mountainous areas [that separate Haiti and the Dominican] there could be very dangerous, life-threatening mudslides or flash floods."

According to NHC officials, higher elevation areas of Haiti could be hit with as much as 20 inches of rain, enough to set off catastrophic flooding.

Puerto Rico has already received 10 inches of rain from the storm, although Emily never came within 100 miles of that island.

Renel Joseph, a resident of Cite Soleil, a shantytown in the city of Port-au-Prince, told reporters "If any storm comes, we meet our demise.”

David Preux, of the International Organization for Migration in the southern Haitian city of Jacmel, told media: "The problem is when people wait until the last minute to evacuate."

In June, a mudslide and floods triggered by another slow-moving storm killed at least people in Haiti.

Due to widespread poverty, many Haitians are stuck where they are.

“For now, God is the only savior for me," Jislaine Jean-Julien, a street vendor in Port-au-Prince told AP.

“I would go someplace else if I could, but I have no place else to go.’’