Friday, September 5, 2008

495 bodies found as Haiti floodwaters recede

Haitian police have found 495 corpses after muddy floodwaters began to recede from the port city of Gonaives, following days of heavy rain from tropical storm Hanna, the town's police commissioner said.

"The weather is calm now and we are discovering more bodies," he said.

"We have found 495 bodies so far and there are 13 people missing," commissioner Ernst Dorfeuille said on Friday (local time).

"The smell of the dead is very unpleasant in Gonaives. The death toll could be even higher."

Gonaives is Haiti's third largest city.

Hanna's death toll had hit about 150 overnight.

Flooding and landslides from tropical storm Hanna had forced nearly 10,000 people into shelters - not including thousands more who had evacuated Gonaives, a city of 300,000.

Senator Yuri Latortue, who represents the city, called the situation "catastrophic," saying some 200,000 people there had not eaten for three days.

A ship carrying 33 tons of relief supplies from the United Nations has arrived in the country.

The head of European Union Humanitarian Aid Bureau in the Caribbean, Vicente Raimundo, says the storms has aggravated the problems already faced by many Haitians.

"The poorest country in the western hemisphere is facing very high levels of acute children malnutrition and maternal mortality," he said.

"That's a severe problem in itself.

"Now, after that, we have had a so-called food crisis because the increased cost of goods and fuel and now we are having a wave of natural disasters."

Hanna struck Haiti one week after it was hit by Hurricane Gustav, which killed 77 people.

Two weeks ago, tropical storm Fay sparked flooding in the country that left about 40 people dead.


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