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Tropical Storm Emily approaches the Dominican Republic, Haiti

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Nearly 12,000 U.N. troops and police are on standby in Haiti
  • Emily is about 75 miles south of the Dominican Republic
  • The storm is expected to approach Haiti Thursday
  • Emily's winds are at 50 mph

Miami, Florida (CNN) -- Nearly 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers are on emergency standby in Haiti, as Tropical Storm Emily churns towards the Caribbean island, the United Nations said.

Residents braced themselves for the storm that is expected to hit the island early Thursday. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are still living in temporary quarters in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Members of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti have already been deployed to areas at risk of flooding from the storm, the U.N. said.

The government issued an alert advising residents that the storm's heavy rains could produce dangerous flooding and mudslides. Rains and flooding from hurricane Tomas in 2010 unleashed a cholera epidemic in Haiti that killed hundreds and infected nearly 2,000 people, the U.N. said.

Tropical Storm Emily continued to gradually spin towards Haiti. The center of the storm was expected to pass over eastern parts of Cuba Thursday night.

As of Wednesday evening, the disorganized storm was about 75 miles southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic, and was expected to dump heavy rains over Haiti and parts of Cuba, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

The government of the Dominican Republic discontinued the tropical storm watch from Cabo Francis Viejo to Cabo Engano. A warning for Puerto Rico was discontinued as Emily passed that island by.

A storm warning means storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours, a watch means storm conditions are possible, the center said.

"Some weakening is possible as Emily interacts with the high terrain of Haiti and eastern Cuba," the Miami-based hurricane center said. "Some re-strengthening is possible when the cyclone moves over the Bahamas."

Emily was continuing to move west at 14 mph, but the weather service said it expects the storm to turn to the northwest over the next couple of days.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Haiti; the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, the southeast and central Bahamas; and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Tropical storm conditions, including winds of at least 39 mph, were expected in the southeast Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos on Thursday, and conditions were possible Thursday night across the central Bahamas.

The forecast also suggested Emily could skirt the east coast of Florida by early Saturday, but no watches or warnings were posted for the U.S. mainland as of Wednesday.

CNN's Ed Payne contributed to this report.