SANTO DOMINGO, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Tropical storm Chantal reached the Dominican Republic Wednesday weaker than expected, but still caused flooding as neighboring Haiti braced for the worst by announcing a red alert, meteorological authorities of both countries reported.
Chantal dumped persistent rains in the southern and eastern coasts of the Dominican Republic, but authorities called off a tropical storm warning, according to a 2 pm report from the U.S.- based National Hurricane Center.
Streets in the capital Santo Domingo flooded Wednesday morning, with most people staying home, and many private companies and public offices suspending activities.
As a precaution, some international airlines canceled flights to Brazil, Haiti and the United States from the capital's main Las Americas International Airport, as well as the smaller Joaquin Balaguer Airport, located in northern Santo Domingo.
The National Meteorology Office (Onamet) said the third storm of the season was rapidly moving westward at 46 kilometers per hour (kph), with maximum sustained winds of 75 kph, and was expected to weaken in the next hours into a tropical wave, due to its erratic movement.
In Haiti, meanwhile, a nationwide red alert was declared Wednesday due to the possibility of flooding and landslides.
The Haitian government activated a National Risk and Disaster Management Plan and ordered emergency organizations to remain alert, the National Meteorological Center (CNM) said, adding the center of the storm could arrive in Haiti's southern coast by 8 pm local time (24:00 GMT).
According to CNM Director Ronald Semelfort, 20 centimeters of rain was expected.
"The country is very vulnerable due to the high degradation of the environment," said Alta Jean Baptiste, coordinator of the Civil Protection Department, warning of the risk of flooding and landslides.
Haiti's Minister of the Interior David Bazile said on Tuesday that the government disbursed 60 million Haitian gourdes (1.4 million U.S. dollars) to quickly respond to any damages to be caused by Chantal, the funds would be divided according to the vulnerability of each department, and all necessary measures were taken to deploy emergency supplies.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola, which weather forecasters have said could be hit by at least one hurricane this year out of an expected total of 18 storms predicted for this June to November season.