Troops Rush to Flood-Wracked Caribbean

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Troops Rush to Flood-Wracked Caribbean

Post by kumquatq3 » Thu May 27, 2004 10:14 pm

By AMY BRACKEN and PETER PRENGAMAN, Associated Press Writer

FOND VERRETTES, Haiti - U.S. and Canadian troops on Thursday rushed to a town left completely submerged by flooding, and health officials feared 1,000 people could be dead in that town alone, a figure that would nearly double the toll from storms that hit Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

About 300 bodies have been counted so far in the isolated border town of Mapou, said Dr. Yvon Lavissiere, the health director for the region.

That brought the confirmed death toll from Haiti and the Dominican Republic to nearly 870.

"In Mapou, the situation is serious because the entire town is submerged in water," said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesman for the U.S.-led multinational task force in Haiti. "We're also fighting time because weather is turning bad again."

U.S. and Canadian troops, sent to Haiti after rebels ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29, were ferrying water and supplies to Mapou, 30 miles southeast of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

As many as 1,000 people were feared dead in Mapou, said Margarette Martin, the government's representative for the southeast region in nearby Jacmel.

In the Haitian border town of Fond Verrettes, meanwhile, more troops handed out food Thursday to hundreds of survivors who lined up seeking help. Troops were also ferrying plastic tarpaulins to families seeking shelter.

Rains over the weekend lashed the island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, sweeping away entire neighborhoods early Monday.

Including the 300 known dead so far in Mapou, some 450 bodies have been recovered in Haiti. At least 158 more people in Fond Verrettes were missing and presumed dead.

At least 417 bodies had been recovered in the Dominican Republic, and officials said some 400 were missing.

"The river took everything, there isn't anything left," said Jermanie Vulsont, a mother who said the rushing water swept away her five children in Fond Verrettes, about 35 miles southeast of Port-au-Prince.

Rushing waters and mudslides swept away most homes in Fond Verrettes, leaving it looking like a barren riverbed with stunned residents wondering about and asking troops for help.

"For a while we didn't even realize what we were standing on," said Lance Cpl. Justin Collins, 21, of Avon, Ill., one of about 20 U.S. Marines who went to help feed villagers. "We were standing on some parts of a neighborhood. It's clear they need more food and water."

Among the known dead in Haiti were 100 bodies found in the southern town of Grand Gosier, said Civil Protection Director Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste. Fifty more corpses were found elsewhere.

In the Dominican Republic, U.S. Ambassador Hans Hertell flew to the border town of Jimani early Thursday to assess the damage. "This situation is grim and we're looking at ways to get more money here," he said.

The floods struck before dawn Monday while people were sleeping. In Jimani, Leonardo Novas awoke to the screams of his infant son while water rose in his wooden house. He huddled with his wife and three children, and shouted to his brother next door to stay inside, but it was too late.

The force of the mud took all but one wall of Novas' house.

"Everything's gone. My house and five family members," said Novas, 28, who watched his brother and the brother's family carried away in a crushing torrent of mud.

Dominican authorities buried more than 250 bodies immediately, some where they were found and others in a mass grave. Authorities told families there was no time to identify many of the bodies because they were badly decomposed and posed health risks if moved.

Jimani, about 100 miles east of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, is inhabited mostly by Haitian migrants who work as vendors and sugar cane cutters. Dominican officials said some of the Haitians who lost relatives may have been living in the town illegally and were scared to identify bodies.

The death tolls have been high because the border area is largely deforested and many of the poor have built poorly constructed homes out of wood and tin. Hundreds of homes were destroyed on both sides of the border.

The floods were some of the deadliest in the region in recent years. In 1994, Tropical Storm Gordon (news - web sites) caused mudslides that buried at least 829 Haitians. As many as 15,000 people are estimated to have died in 1999 flooding and mudslides in Venezuela.

The Dominican government declared Jimani a disaster area, and President Hipolito Mejia said Thursday would be a national day of mourning.

"The damage and human losses have been of such magnitude," Mejia said in his declaration, adding that sending aid is of "high national interest."
[quote="Hakuri"] If she had a good personality, maybe I'd consider it, but she doesn't even have cable TV up there.[/quote]

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kumquatq3
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Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2003 4:07 am

Post by kumquatq3 » Sat May 29, 2004 7:37 pm

Think this was reported in France?

Helicopters Shuttle Food to Stricken Haitian Towns

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Foreign military helicopters shuttled tons of food and drinking water to flood-devastated Haitian towns on Saturday, the only lifeline for thousands of homeless people cut off from the world.

With roads to the stricken areas impassable in many places, helicopters have been the only way to reach survivors of flooding that killed an estimated 2,000 people on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

As many as 1,000 of the dead were in the southeastern Haitian town of Mapou that was engulfed by the floods, officials say. The town of several thousand people is only about 25 miles southeast of the capital, but roads were damaged by the torrents of mud and water that swept down hillsides five days ago.

"The helicopters are a very short-term fix for addressing immediate needs," said Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, spokesman for the U.S. military in Haiti, adding that road repairs would have to become a priority as the flooded areas start to recover.

A small boat to enable aid workers to get around Mapou, much of it still submerged, was being sent on one of the 15 to 20 helicopter flights planned for Saturday, Lapan said.

A U.S.-led multinational force, sent to the impoverished country three months ago to help restore order after former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted by a bloody revolt, has turned to relief work after the worst natural disaster to hit Haiti in a decade.

Tons of food and supplies were delivered to Mapou in previous days and most of Saturday's flights focused on delivering relief supplies to other hard-hit towns -- Fond Verettes, where more than 160 people died, and another small town in the southeast, Thiotte.

In Fond Verettes alone, some 8,500 people needed food, most of them made homeless by the disaster, said Inigo Alvarez, a spokesman in Haiti for the World Food Program.

TOLL COULD RISE

He added that aid workers were also looking for more pockets of disaster. "We are worried there are small isolated areas" that have not been reached," Alvarez said.

The death toll in Haiti stood at about 1,800, while about 350 people were killed in the Dominican Republic, most in the border town of Jimani. Aid workers and officials have said the toll could rise as more bodies are found in the mud and debris.

The flooding ravaged the crops and livestock of poor farmers who scratch out a living and piled misery onto already desperate conditions in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas. Average per capita annual income for Haiti's 8 million people is about $300.

The World Food Program was already running a program to feed some 140,000 people after months of civil unrest in Haiti.

"The WFP is not new to this country ... it is suffering a long, deep crisis," Alvarez said.

The foreign military force, numbering about 3,500 troops, is due to start handing over to U.N.-led troops on June 1, but Lapan said this would not mean that relief flights would suddenly come to a halt.

"The U.N. resolution (on the military force) provides for a 30-day transition and there will be no stopping of efforts next week," he said.
[quote="Hakuri"] If she had a good personality, maybe I'd consider it, but she doesn't even have cable TV up there.[/quote]

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