Flood rescuers bring aid to remote villages

Click to follow
The Independent US

Helicopters with emergency supplies reached remote villages devastated by floods yesterday as Haiti and the Dominican Republic struggled to recover from a disaster that has left at least 1,000 dead and hundreds more missing.

Helicopters with emergency supplies reached remote villages devastated by floods yesterday as Haiti and the Dominican Republic struggled to recover from a disaster that has left at least 1,000 dead and hundreds more missing.

On the Dominican side, another 23 bodies were recovered overnight near the border town of Jimani, where corpses were floating downstream into a lake teeming with crocodiles.

With few roads passable and only 14 helicopters, troops were seeking other ways to reach the needy with drinking water, food and medicine, said a spokesman for the US-led multinational force. The troops, sent to Haiti after rebels ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on 29 February, are due to hand over to the UN on Tuesday.

Aid workers rushed to provide relief as both countries braced for a rising death toll, with more rain predicted to fall.

The UN World Food Program (WFP), which loaded 8,000 tons of food onto a helicopter bound for the southern town of Mapou yesterday, was considering bringing more food to villages on a barge. Some of the towns are coastal. "The need is extreme," a spokesman for the WFP said.

Rains returned on Thursday as US Marines delivered drinking water and chlorine tablets to hundreds in Mapou, about 30 miles south-east of Port-au-Prince, and where most houses were under water.

With hundreds still missing, it is thought the final toll has climbed above 2,000 in the worst floods to hit Hispaniola island in recent memory.

As many as 1,000 were feared dead in Mapou, according to Margarette Martin, the government's representative in the south-east province. About 300 have been confirmed dead so far.

UN teams were trying to arrange boats to help recover bodies trapped under trees and in houses. "You can still see bodies in the water coming up," said Michel Matera, a UN technical adviser for disasters who travelled to Mapou on Thursday.

Unrecovered corpses could contaminate water sources. "There is a grave risk of an epidemic," he said. An estimated 10,000 people in 26 villages surrounding Mapou are in urgent need of help.

The Haitian government's official death toll climbed to 579 on Thursday as 165 people, including 45 children, were declared dead in the border town of Fond Verrettes. Few bodies were found there after floods swept away most houses.

At least 442 bodies were recovered in the Dominican Republic, a number of them Haitian migrants.

The floods struck early on Monday after three days of heavy rain, triggering torrents that swept away entire neighbourhoods. One 18-year-old Haitian, Pepe Dematin, travelled across the border to Jimani searching for his brother's family of five. "I came to find them, but their house is gone," he said.

Red Cross workers helped search for bodies, survey the damage and treat the wounded.

With more flooding possible, "there is the urgent need to move people away from some areas," Mr Matera said.

Touring Jimani on Thursday, the Dominican President, Hipolito Mejia, promised new homes for families. The Haitian government has scant resources to deal with disasters.

Comments