Ike kills 10 in Haiti

Haitians took to their roofs to escape rising floodwaters yesterday for the second time in a week as squalls from Hurricane Ike added insult to their misery, inundating homes and collapsing a bridge on the last open land route for aid to the desperate city.

Five adults and five children drowned overnight in the coastal town of Cabaret north of Port-au-Prince, civil protection director Marie-Alta Jean Baptiste said, raising Haiti's overall death toll to 262 from four tropical storms in recent weeks.

Above Haiti's coastal floodplain, in the Artibonite Valley, authorities prepared to open an overflowing dam, inundating more homes and possibly causing lasting damage to Haiti's "rice bowl," a key farming area whose revival is key to rescuing the starving country.

"Please evacuate as soon as you can," Agriculture Minister Joanas Gay urged Artibonite residents on state-run Radio Nationale.

Rains also pelted Haiti's northern coast as the Category 4 hurricane made its way from the Bahamas west toward Cuba, but a United Nations humanitarian aid coordinator said there were no reports of major flooding, deaths or evacuations there.

The hurricane's full force skirted the Dominican Republic, but heavy rains and winds forced 4,160 people into shelters and a 60-year-old farmer was crushed to death by an uprooted tree, said Minerva Santos, civil defense director in the northern town of Nagua.

Dominican authorities also found the body of a fisherman who drowned in the Atlantic during Tropical Storm Hanna a week ago.

In central Haiti, the flooding caused the collapse of the Mirebalais bridge, cutting off the last land route into Gonaives, where international aid organisations have struggled to reach residents with food, drinking water and other relief supplies.

As United Nations peacekeepers set out in trucks to deliver more aid, scores of young men splashed alongside, begging for help. One called out with a bullhorn: "Hey, hey, my friend. Give me some water." UN security was beefed up on Sunday to keep order. A line of 3,000 people snaked around a warehouse-turned-UN shelter, and several hundred pushed and shoved to break down the door, only to be quickly subdued by Bolivian troops in riot gear.

Residents also faced gasoline shortages and price hikes, with fuel reaching 500 Haitian gourdes ($NZ19.76 a gallon).

Thanks in large part to the arrival of a container ship from Port-au-Prince with 33 tons of supplies from the UN's World Food Programme, relief workers in Gonaives said they had enough emergency food supplies for the next couple of days even though flooding closed all roads and grounded flights into Haiti's fourth largest city.