Search for survivors as floods kill at least 200 Haitians and Dominicans

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The Independent US

At least 200 people have been killed in floods that have hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti over the past two days, with many swept to their deaths after heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola that they share.

At least 200 people have been killed in floods that have hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti over the past two days, with many swept to their deaths after heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola that they share.

North-western areas of the Dominican Republic have been worst hit, the Dominican weather service reporting 10 inches of rain in 24 hours in the impoverished Jimani area near the border. The rain has cut roads, damaged crops and livestock, and caused power cuts in at least 14 towns. Up to 450 homes are believed to have been flooded.

Officials in Jimani said that about 110 bodies had been recovered, and about 200 people were believed to be missing.

About 50 of the dead in the Jimani area are believed to have been Haitian migrants. The floods started on Monday when the Soleil river burst its banks before daybreak. Some victims were carried up to six miles by the torrent. Survivors said they had been asleep when the floods hit their homes.

"It was all very fast, I couldn't do anything", said Ramon Perez Feliz, who lost his sister and two nephews.

"I was saved because the current threw me away, out of the river."

President Hipolito Mejia sent emergency teams from the capital Santa Domingo, including 300 soldiers and 25 ambulances.

Air force and army teams have been searching for survivors in atrocious conditions, but were forced to stop when darkness fell.

Some of the corpses have been left at the side of the road, waiting for relatives to identify them, but as temperatures soar and with goats and pigs rooting around some of the bodies, the government is being forced to consider amass grave.

In Haiti, the Civil Protection Office and Radio Metropole reported 58 casualties in the town of Fond Verrettes, five miles from Jimani, and 59 deaths in the southern tourist town of Jamcel. US marines who are leading a 3,600-strong multinational task force in Haiti were going to Fond Verrettes to look for survivors and help in emergency work.

Haiti has been the victim of terrible flooding before, with the Tropical Storm Gordon of 1994 causing mudslides that buried more than 800 Haitians.

On the neighbouring island of Puerto Rico, floods claimed at least four lives and caused 100 people to flee their homes.

Parts of the island saw up to eight inches of rain, and on Monday more than 60 Puerto Ricans were staying in emergency shelters.

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