Ike slams Cuba, readies for another hit
1 day ago
HAVANA (AFP) — Hurricane Ike assaulted Cuba on Monday with monster waves and torrential rains after leaving 61 people dead in Haiti, where a series of vicious storms has triggered a humanitarian crisis...
...Worst-affected is Haiti , where four storms in three weeks have killed more than 600 people and left hundreds of thousands desperate for food, clean water and shelter.
Officials continued aid operations in the stricken town of Gonaives, where hundreds died in devastating floods from Tropical Storm Hanna, but stormy weather and bridge collapses hampered relief efforts.
As thousands awaited relief, the US Navy deployed a helicopter carrier off Haiti's coast to help with relief efforts.
The USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship loaded with relief supplies, will help move cargo and equipment between Port-au-Prince and Gonaives, Saint-Marc and other stricken areas, the military said.
UN peacekeepers struggle through floodwaters near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the wake of by hurricane Ike. Photo: Reuters
Flooding also collapsed a bridge that had been the last land route to the starving northern city of Gonaives, where residents fled to rooftops as waters rose for the second time in a week. Three more bodies were found in Gonaives on Sunday, according to civil defense director Maria Alta Jean-Baptiste, all victims of previous storms.
The latest deaths pushed Haiti's toll to at least 319 from four storms in less than a month.
Most of Sunday's 58 deaths were in the Cabaret region north of Port-au-Prince. A swollen river unleased mudslides and floods and crushed homes and sent people fleeing in the middle of the night.
In the Always Funeral Home, 21 muddy bodies were piled in a dank room, unclaimed. Two of them were pregnant, one still clutching a small girl to her chest. Morgue workers roughly separated the bodies to count them, grabbing one baby boy by the head and tossing him aside like a doll.
Waters reached chest-high levels before receding Sunday morning, leaving people to shovel mud from their houses. Others sat outside, surrounded by salvaged pots and mattresses, staring glumly at their collapsed homes.
``We took refuge in one room and waited there all night and prayed,'' said Sister Marie Denise, who was trapped by waist-high waters in the house she shares with four nuns. They evacuated to the nearby school they run after the waters receded.
``We don't know if one of our girls is among the dead,'' she said of her students.
No foreign aid has reached the town even though hundreds of people have been forced from their homes, said local civil defense director Henri Luis Praviel. Still, with the waters swiftly retreating and all roads leading into Cabaret still open, the town may have been better off than isolated Gonaives, Haiti's fourth-largest city.
Pummeled by rains for four days last week during Tropical Storm Hanna, the city was cut off again Sunday when flooding caused the collapse of the Mirebalais bridge in central Haiti. And while the rain finally stopped, high waters will likely keep running down from deforested mountains into the coastal flood plain.
Much of Gonaives remained inaccessible, even to United Nations peacekeepers already in the city, because of rising waters and strong currents. Desperation was increasingly evident among people who have had very little to eat or drink for days, prompting peacekeepers to beef up security.
A line of 3,000 people snaked around a warehouse-turned-U.N. shelter, and several hundred pushed and shoved to break down the door, only to be quickly subdued by Bolivian troops in riot gear.
As peacekeepers delivered aid to areas their trucks could reach, scores of young men splashed alongside, begging for help. One called out with a bullhorn: ``Hey, hey, my friend. Give me some water.''
Food and fuel prices both skyrocketed, with gasoline reaching 500 Haitian gourdes (US$13) a gallon. And while relief workers in Gonaives said they had enough emergency food supplies for the next couple of days, distributing it is becoming ever more complicated.
Workers spent four hours handing out water and high-protein biscuits. But people were growing tired of relief food and started to demand rice, which has gone up 60 percent in price since the storms.
``We would like to eat some real food,'' said shelter resident Esaie St. Juste. ``Rice, beans, sardines. Haitian people like real food.''
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 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 Nationale
This photo was released by UN peacekeepers on Wed, depicting folks gathering in 'shelters' in Gonaive (see the link below for the news article about aid convoys having to turn back) this is before Ike hit and dumped tons more on Haiti. At this point it looks as though dams will have to be released potentially killing many more and wiping out key farming land.
See private blog for more, let me know if you still don't have the link.
Deforestation and poverty behind Haiti flood crisis