Thursday, September 18, 2008

Floods Recede, But Dead Still Appearing In Haiti


[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Rescue workers are collecting bodies from the floods and burying them quickly in mass graves, to try to prevent the spread of disease."][/caption]

MIAMI --Long after the floodwaters from three punishing hurricanes and a tropical storm have receded from Haiti's mud-caked streets, new bodies are still showing up every day, officials said Wednesday.

Municipal water systems remain broken, and those rendered homeless by Hurricane Ike have been wearing the same clothes in which they escaped the storm. Thousands are homeless in some communities like the brutalized coastal town of Gonaives, and tens of thousands are living in cramped shelters there and across the poor Caribbean island.

"After this storm, there's nothing," said Gonaives' assistant mayor Jean Francois Adolphe, who joined more than 100 Haitian leaders in Miami to solicit help and learn how the country could help itself. "Everything is under dirt. The person that had stores, the people that did commerce, they all have to start at zero now, and they're in great despair. They've almost given up hope."

This year has been tougher than usual for hard-luck Haiti. Before the relentless succession of storms, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere had already been roiled by food riots over spiking global commodity prices. Aid is being delivered, but not quickly enough, and there was just so much Haiti needed to begin with.

"Every kind of help imaginable - clothes, shelter, food, shoes," said Thomas Joseph Wills, mayor of Cabaret. "We need technicians, engineers. Everybody is saying the same thing. Not necessarily money, but just help us put together a system, an infrastructure, of support. So we can do this ourselves."

Adolphe said Gonaives, in which 3,000 were killed during Tropical Storm Jeanne in 2004, was beginning to learn its lessons. He said officials were considering rebuilding parts of the city on higher ground, and wanted to start planting trees to prevent dangerous and costly mudslides. This time around, he said, Gonaives had an evacuation plan - using United Nations and central government trucks.

But the evacuations couldn't save everyone. Wills recalled a haunting scene before and after the storm of death and lingering desperation.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="230" caption="A Haitian women whom did not survive the flood."]HeraldSun.Com[/caption]

"The waters just took over. There were people running like crazy here and there. Mothers and fathers, the waters ripped their children out of their hands," Wills said.

"Everybody was exhausted. It took everything out of them, because they were just picking up dead bodies in the street. It seemed like it would never end."

It hasn't, and won't, for some time. The storms and mudslides also devastated Haiti's crops, worsening an already-dire food situation in a nation whose average worker makes less than $1 a day.

Wills predicted worse for the immediate future, if international assistance didn't arrive.

"All the agricultural areas to plant rice, they've all been destroyed," he said. "In the next six months, if something is not done, a famine is imminent."

Source: HeraldSun.Com - MiamiHerald.Com

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