MIAMI – Tropical Storm Alpha, the record-breaking 22nd storm of the season, caused severe flooding and forced thousands of evacuations in the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Sunday before being downgraded to a tropical depression.

Forecasters feared that Alpha could dump as much as 15 inches of rain on Hispaniola, the Caribbean island shared by the two countries, which is still recovering from torrential rains that killed 12 people in Haiti last week.

Born in the Caribbean Sea on Saturday, Alpha approached the Dominican Republic and Haiti from the southwest with 52 mph winds. The downpour was particularly dangerous for two nations known for mudslides and rising waters that wipe out entire villages.

People living near rising rivers in Haiti were flooded out Sunday and forced to scramble for shelter.

Dominican authorities were keeping a careful eye on the Sabana Yegua dam, which overflowed during 1998’s Hurricane Georges, wiping out an entire village. This time, townspeople were taken to a nearby sports stadium, and 8,000 more were evacuated from the south, according to the Emergency Management Committee.

In Haiti, all the southeastern rivers flooded, and authorities began evacuations on Sunday. The southeast portion of the nation was worst off, and in the capital of Port-au-Prince, authorities said there may have been casualties in the Carrefour slum neighborhood, but said they were unsure how many.

Alpha was expected to weaken over the mountains of Hispaniola and to head northwest, away from the U.S. mainland.

(Miami Herald special correspondent Reagan Lolo in Port-au-Prince and Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent David Ovalle at the National Hurricane Center in Miami contributed to this report.)

(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-10-23-05 1717EDT

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