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At Least 622 Haitians Die in Tropical Storm Jeanne

September 21, 2004|From Associated Press

GONAIVES, Haiti — This nation's death toll from Tropical Storm Jeanne rose to 622 late Monday as search crews recovered the bodies of hundreds of victims carried away by weekend floods or buried under mud or collapsed homes, officials said.

"All I have is complete despair and the clothes I'm wearing," said Jean Estimable. His 2-year-old daughter was killed and another of his five children was missing and presumed dead.

Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, a spokesman for the U.N. mission here, said: "The water is high. As it goes down, we expect to find more bodies."

At least 500 victims were at morgues in Gonaives. Fifty-six people were killed in northern Port-de-Paix and 17 died in the nearby town of Terre Neuve, officials said. Dieufort Deslorges, a spokesman for the government civil protection agency, reported another 49 bodies recovered elsewhere.

Two days after lashing Haiti, Jeanne regained hurricane strength Monday over the open Atlantic, but it posed no immediate threat to land. Since it developed last week, Jeanne has been blamed for at least 647 deaths, including 18 in the Dominican Republic and seven in Puerto Rico.

In Gonaives, a city of about a quarter-million, people waded through ankle-deep mud outside the mayor's office, where workers were shoveling out mud and doctors treated some of the wounded.

Deslorges said survivors "need everything from potable water to food, clothing, medication and disinfectants."

Flooding destroyed homes and crops in the Artibonite region, Haiti's breadbasket.

People tripped over each other to grab tiny bags of water thrown from a Red Cross truck in front of City Hall.

Katya Silme, 18, said she, her mother and six siblings spent the night in a tree because their house was flooded.

"The river destroyed my house completely, and now we have nothing. We have not eaten anything since the floods," she said.

Floods are particularly devastating in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, because it is almost completely deforested, leaving few roots to hold back water or mud.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue toured some flooded areas Sunday and declared Gonaives a disaster area, calling for international aid.

The U.S. Embassy announced $60,000 in immediate relief.

Argentine troops who are among more than 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti treated at least 150 people injured by the floods in Gonaives, mostly for cuts on their feet and legs, said Lt. Cmdr. Emilio Vera.

Jean Saint Manus stood outside the flooded base used by the troops and asked soldiers to remove 11 bodies that were floating in his house, including those of four brothers and a sister.

Manus said: "The door was closed. Everybody was trapped inside."

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