Dark clouds from Tropical storm Tomas of 2010 loom over a camp for displaced people in Port-au-Prince. UN Photo/L. Abassi

As tropical storm Isaac nears landfall in the Caribbean, regional emergency teams are ready to be deployed in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba in the event of any contingencies, the United Nations food relief agency said today.

According to media reports, the storm may become a hurricane by the time it reaches Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the afternoon, affecting as many as 500,000 people. The hurricane would then continue its path towards Cuba and the southern United States over the weekend.

In a news briefing in Geneva, a spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), Elizabeth Byrs, said the agency would be able to provide some 56 metric tons of high energy biscuits within less than 72 hours in Haiti, which would feed some 187,000 people.

Current in-country food stocks in Haiti amount to 20,000 metric tons and another 9,400 metric tons are expected to arrive, the agency said. Additionally a fleet of 48 Haitian trucks is ready to be deployed, and some 72 metric tons of high energy biscuits are available for an airlift in an emergency response centre in El Salvador.

One of the main concerns, Ms. Byrs said, is being able to provide assistance to the most vulnerable populations, including the 300,000 internally displaced persons who have been living in tents after the earthquake that struck Haiti?s capital, Port au Prince, two years ago.

In the Dominican Republic, WFP estimates that as many as 247,000 people could be affected and the Government could provide food assistance for as many as seven days. In Cuba, however, the Government had not issued an emergency alert as of Thursday afternoon, and WFP said it would continue to monitor the situation.

At the same news briefing, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said humanitarian agencies had started updating and pre-positioning their stocks in metropolitan areas and in departments across Haiti and that additional stocks were available in Panama.

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