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Haitian City Bears Brunt of Jeanne

Gonaives Swamped; Storm Toll Reaches Nearly 700 Dead, 1,000 Missing

Associated Press
Wednesday, September 22, 2004; Page A20

GONAIVES, Haiti, Sept. 21 -- Floodwaters receded, but half of Haiti's third-largest city was still swamped Tuesday with contaminated water up to two feet deep four days after Tropical Storm Jeanne passed.

Not a house in Gonaives, a city of 250,000 people, escaped damage. The homeless sloshed through the streets carrying belongings on their heads, while people with houses that still had roofs tried to dry scavenged clothes.


Rosaline Raphael, left, and other relatives cry for Raphael's mother, who was killed in Gonaives by floods from Tropical Storm Jeanne. (Ariana Cubillos -- AP)

The death toll across Haiti from the weekend deluges brought by Jeanne was at 691, with at least 600 in Gonaives. Officials said they expected the toll to rise.

Waterlines up to 10 feet high on Gonaives' buildings marked the worst of the storm that sent water gushing down denuded hills, destroying homes and crops in the Artibonite region that is Haiti's breadbasket.

"We're going to start burying people in mass graves," said Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Some victims were buried Monday.

Flies buzzed around bloated corpses piled high at the city's three morgues, where the electricity was off as temperatures reached the 90s. Many of the dead at the General Hospital were children.

"I lost my kids, and there's nothing I can do," said Jean Estimable, whose 2-year-old daughter was killed. Another of his five children was missing and presumed dead.

Dieufort Deslorges, spokesman for the civil protection agency, said he expected the death toll to rise as reports came in from outlying villages.

More than 1,000 people were missing, said Raoul Elysee, head of the Haitian Red Cross, which was trying desperately to find doctors to help. The international aid group CARE said 85 of its 200 workers in Gonaives were unaccounted for.

Brazilian and Jordanian troops, who were part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission sent to stabilize Haiti after rebels ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February, struggled to help the needy as aid workers ferried supplies of water and food to victims.

Rick Perera, a spokesman for CARE, said the agency had about 660 tons of dry food in Gonaives, including corn-soy blend, dried lentils and cooking oil and was working to set up distribution points.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Haiti's interim president, Boniface Alexandre, pleaded for help.

"In the face of this tragedy . . . I appeal urgently for the solidarity of the international community so it may once again support the government in the framework of emergency assistance," he said.

Jeanne came four months after devastating floods along Haiti's southern border with the Dominican Republic. During those floods, about 1,700 bodies were recovered and 1,600 other people were presumed dead.


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