Port-au-Prince : Torrential rains lashed Haiti, flooding shanty towns, swamping the squalid camps erected after a 2010 earthquake and killing at least 23 people, officials said.

The worst rains to hit the impoverished country this year at the start of the hurricane season paralysed the capital, where most of the deaths took place, according to officials at Haiti's civil protection agency.

Thunderstorms pounded several North Caribbean islands in early Tuesdy but there was very little chance of
low pressure area developing into a hurricane, according to the US-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Several days of rain had already swelled rivers, however,  the NHC warned of "flash floods and mudslides over portions of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba." Haiti was most at risk from the wet weather, due to its crumbling infrastructure and ramshackle shelters for tens of thousands left homeless after the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake which took place in January 2010.

Health officials here also fear an uptick in fatalities from a cholera outbreak that erupted last October. The diarrheal illness thrives in crowded areas where people rely on contaminated water. The death toll in Haiti included two people who died as water rose in the tent camp near the ruined presidential palace and two children who were buried when their home collapsed, officials said. Nadia Lochard from the civil protection agency, said 13 people were killed in the upscale suburb of Petionville, "Most when their houses collapsed or were swept away in mudslides."

Newly elected President Michel Martelly headed to the city's poorest neighborhood, Cite Soleil which officials said was completely swamped by the rainfall and where people sought higher ground on the roofs of their homes.

(Agencies)