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Haitians mob relief vehicle


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Haiti mob attacks relief truck

Death toll nears 1,200, with 1,200 more missing

 

Friday, September 24, 2004 Posted: 6:39 PM EDT (2239 GMT)

 

 

GONAIVES, Haiti (AP) -- U.N. troops fired smoke grenades Friday as crowds of Haitian flood victims tried to break into a food distribution site, increasingly desperate over the slow pace of relief after Tropical Storm Jeanne devastated the city.

 

At least 1,160 people were killed in last weekend's storm and crews are continuing to find bodies in the mud and debris. Another 1,250 people remained missing.

 

About 500 people gathered at a Roman Catholic school where CARE International passed out food to women only in hopes of reducing the crowds. The crowd swelled, however, and men, women and children tried to push through an iron gate.

 

Argentine U.N. troops fired grenades, chasing people away. But the sunburned, unwashed flood victims returned in surges once the air cleared of smoke.

 

"We need everything -- bread, clothes, clean water, food," said Mosau Alveus, 25, who showed up at 6 a.m. and came away hours later with just a bag of grain.

 

Genevieve Montaguere, a nun from Guadeloupe, said the school distributed food for 1,000 families but ran out of drinking water.

 

Mud has formed a crust across this city of 250,000. Hungry and thirsty survivors -- some of whom lost entire families and everything they own in last week's floods -- were becoming increasingly desperate.

 

"This is crazy," said Arito Ferreira, a Portuguese police officer among the 650 U.N. peacekeepers in Gonaives. "They come in here without warning. They are trying to do good but people will get hurt."

 

An 18-wheeler carrying relief supplies from the Church of God was attacked by residents when it entered the city. People jumped on the moving truck, pried open the doors and threw out boxes of supplies. Troops shoved and pushed crowds off the truck.

 

"It's dangerous and difficult, but we have to come here," said Keteline Richards, 24, who lined up at the school for a second day looking for aid.

 

The food carriers battled their way to Gonaives from the port of St. Marc to the south, fording floodwaters and mudslides that remain a hazard on National Route 1. At least three truckloads of aid were mired in ditches along the flooded road Thursday.

 

Poorly maintained roads disintegrated and utilities failed, compounding problems for relief workers.

 

"Trucking in clean water to Gonaives is a logistical nightmare," said Abby Maxman, a local director for CARE.

 

Floodwaters finally receded Friday in the seaside slum of Raboteau, one of the hardest-hit areas. Mud caked over animal carcasses and storm debris, and people rushed to clean mounds from their homes -- those without shovels using branches from downed trees.

 

Many residents held limes to their noses to mask the smell of decaying bodies and overflowing sewage.

 

The General Hospital was out of commission because of knee-deep mud believed to still hold bodies, and medical supplies were running out. Health workers feared an outbreak of waterborne diseases.

 

"It's a critical situation in terms of epidemics," said Francoise Gruloos, Haiti director for the U.N. Children's Fund.

 

Some 1,013 bodies were counted and buried in the city by Thursday night, said Dieufort Deslorges, spokesman for the government's civil protection agency.

 

But an Associated Press photographer on the ground watched people stop the burial of a truckload of bodies Thursday. Cemetery workers demanded money for the extra work. Others objected that no religious rites accompanied the burials -- many Haitians believe a corpse interred without ceremony will wander and commit evil acts.

 

"We stopped the burial yesterday because it smelled so bad," gravedigger Jeudi Nestin said. "It's infecting our lungs and they're not paying us."

 

Other protesters wanted officials to recover bodies in waterlogged surrounding fields and to help search for the missing.

 

"They may be presumed dead," said Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, a spokesman for the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti, which put the number of missing at 1,251.

 

Deslorges said the number of bodies recovered had risen to 1,160 by Friday morning and nearly 300,000 people were homeless in Haiti's northwest province.

 

In the neighboring Dominican Republic, the death toll rose to 24 after rescue workers discovered five bodies crushed in a collapsed cave near the northern tourist town of Samana.

 

Jeanne also killed seven people in Puerto Rico, making the overall Caribbean death toll at least 1,191.

 

At dawn Friday, a group of farmers walked across fields turned to swamps, carrying empty buckets and sacks in hopes of buying something to eat at Aupotau market town where they usually sell their produce -- the closest place that is not devastated, they said.

 

Two overcrowded tap-taps -- Haiti's gaily painted truck-buses -- passed them by before they got a ride, indicating the shortage of transportation because of flooding and a shortage of gasoline. Where it could be found, gas had tripled to $6 a gallon.

 

Only Antonie Netsede had something to sell -- a sack of eggplant she dug from the mud that had destroyed her onions and shallots.

 

"This is the last of what I have," she said.

 

Several nations have been flying in relief food and supplies. In addition, members of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have sent aid, the federation's Hans Havik said.

 

But getting the relief supplies to the needy would be difficult, he said.

 

"We're working on organizing security at the distribution points because this is an increasingly important issue with people going four or five days without food or water," Havik said.

 

The U.S. government has said it would provide more than $2 million -- an increase from $60,000 that some criticized for its paucity.

 

The crisis was only the latest in long-suffering Haiti, a country of 8 million people that has suffered 30 coups fed on greed that perpetuated endemic poverty. This week's tragedy was fueled by massive deforestation that left surrounding valleys unable to hold the rain unleashed by some 30 hours of pounding by Jeanne.

 

Source:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WEATHER/09/24/hait...e.ap/index.html

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