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
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
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.