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Haiti in crisis after tropical storm claims more than 500 lives

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Guy Adams
London Independent
Sunday, Sept 7, 2008

Haiti faces a growing humanitarian crisis after receding floodwaters from tropical storm Hanna left hundreds of bodies on the ruined streets of the northern city of Gonaives. The death toll from the third major storm to hit the impoverished Caribbean country in recent weeks rose above 500 yesterday, with more than a quarter of a million people left homeless.

An even stronger storm, Hurricane Ike, was scheduled to pass just to the north of the country in the early hours of this morning, hitting the Turks and Caicos islands and the eastern end of Cuba, before arriving at the southern tip of the Florida panhandle on Tuesday.

“The weather is calm now, and we are discovering more bodies,” said Ernst Dorfeuille, Gonaives’ police commissioner. “We have found 495 bodies so far and there are 13 people missing. The smell is very unpleasant in Gonaives. The death toll could be even higher.”

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In some parts of the city the water had reached five metres in depth, he added. The missing were trapped in a house, and neighbours who heard them screaming for help said they did not appear to have escaped.

UN peacekeepers and aid workers arrived in Gonaives on Friday, four days after the storm had passed. An estimated 600,000 local people are in need of emergency help following the tropical storm, which came on the heels of hurricanes Fay and Gustav.

The rusty container ship Trois Rivières, chartered by the World Food Programme, was being unloaded at a remote private port outside the city, guarded by Argentine peacekeepers brandishing assault rifles.

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This article was posted: Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 3:49 am

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