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Tropical Storm Olga's death toll rises to 38

December 15, 2007|From Times Wire Services

SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC — The discovery of the bodies of 12 Haitians who drowned on a farm in the Dominican Republic raised the death toll from Tropical Storm Olga to at least 38, authorities said Friday.

Officials also said that thousands of banana and plantain fields had been destroyed, creating what could be the country's worst agricultural crisis in years.

The bodies were found near Castanuelas, a village near the border with Haiti, said civil defense officer Juan Nunez.

"We think the Haitians had no documents and hid themselves when we ordered the evacuation of the flooded areas. They drowned," he said.

Olga was only the tenth named storm to develop in December since record-keeping began in 1851, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm, which disintegrated into a mass of thunderstorms late Wednesday, killed two people, a woman and a 3-year-old boy, in Haiti. Olga's torrential rains were also blamed for mudslides that killed a man in Puerto Rico.

At least 23 people drowned when the Yaque del Norte River burst its banks and flooded parts of Santiago, the Dominican Republic's second-largest city, 100 miles north of Santo Domingo, the capital.

Floodwaters had subsided by Friday, allowing some of the 35,000 people who fled their homes to return.

The Yaque river flooded more than 9,150 acres of banana fields in the northern part of the country this week, leading to an estimated $40 million in lost exports, banana producers said.

Another 6,178 acres of plantain fields were ruined, Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez said.

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