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Panic in Haiti in aftermath of JEANNE


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Panic erupts in flood-ravaged Haiti

Farmer: 'We can only drink the water people died in'


Thursday, September 23, 2004 Posted: 7:31 PM EDT (2331 GMT)


A family takes the coffin of a relative to be buried in Gonaives, Haiti, on Wednesday.

GONAIVES, Haiti (AP) -- Hungry, thirsty and increasingly desperate residents of Gonaives, Haiti, burned tires in protest and attacked each other in a panic to get scarce food and water Thursday as workers struggled to bury hundreds of victims of Tropical Storm Jeanne.


More than 1,100 were killed, 1,250 were missing and the toll was still rising Thursday, six days after the storm hit.


Hundreds pushed through a wooden barrier to crowd into the sole working clinic for treatment, but only one doctor was there Thursday morning.


Some residents had grown so desperate to get rid of putrefying corpses they were burying them in their backyards.


Health workers feared an epidemic from the unburied bodies and animal carcasses, overflowing sewage, lack of potable water and infections from injuries.


The government's civil protection agency said more than 900 people have been treated, most for gashes from fallen zinc roofs. Medics from U.N. peacekeeping troops in Gonaives have helped treat the injured.


But the main General Hospital remains out of commission -- knee-deep in mud that nurses said hide bodies of dozens of patients -- medical supplies are running out and some aid trucks were unable to reach to Gonaives Wednesday because the road was washed away in parts with others blocked by mudslides.


About 250,000 were left homeless in Haiti's northwest province, which includes the port of Gonaives.


"We were saved from the floods but now my baby is sick," said Marilucie Fortune, 30, who gave birth to a son in a slum at the weekend, as Jeanne pounded the city with its torrential rains for some 30 hours.


Workers dug new mass graves for bodies that still littered the city, in mud caking the city, trapped in collapsed homes and floating in floodwaters that still ran knee-deep in some places.


"There are so many bodies, you smell them but you don't see them," said farmer Louise Roland, who like many held a lime to her nose to mask the stench.


In the seaside slum of Carenage, people were burying bodies of unidentified victims in their yards. That could cause yet another health hazard since bodies easily could be forced up from shallow seaside graves.


"We need surgical masks, water and food," said Frantz Bernier, who was burning tires to protest the lack of government help. "We don't have anything."


The official toll rose to 1,105 bodies recovered by Thursday -- the vast majority in Gonaives -- with 1,250 missing and nearly 1,000 injured, according to Dieufort Deslorges, spokesman for the government's civil protection agency.

There are so many bodies, you smell them but you don't see them.

-- Haitian farmer Louise Roland



Police erected barbed wire around their station Thursday after people fired shots at the station overnight. Officer Louis Francois said they feared attack by about 20 escaped inmates who escaped from jail during the storm.


Most of the city's police officers were left homeless by the floods and were handicapped because they only had one vehicle that was not working he said. Their helplessness enraged residents, who have started throwing rocks at the few riot police the government sent in to help.


Aid workers fear an eruption of waterborne diseases, especially diarrhea and cholera.


"It's a critical situation in terms of epidemics, because of the bodies still in the streets, because people are drinking dirty water and scores are getting injuries from debris -- huge cuts that are getting infected," said Francoise Gruloos, Haiti director for the U.N. Children's Fund.


Martine Vice-Aimee, an 18-year-old mother of two whose home was destroyed, said people already were falling ill.


"People are getting sick from the water, they're walking in it, their skin is getting itchy and rashes. The water they're drinking is giving them stomach aches."


Limited distribution by aid workers left most people still hungry and thirsty.


"We can only drink the water people died in," Lebrun, the farmer, complained.


Aid agencies have dry food stocked in Gonaives, but few have the means to cook. Food for the Poor, based in Deerfield, Florida, said its truckloads of relief were unable to reach the city Wednesday. Troops from the Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeeping forcing were ferrying in some supplies by helicopter.


Peacekeepers fired into the air Wednesday to keep a crowd at bay as aid workers handed out loaves of bread -- the first food in days for some.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies appealed for $3.3 million to fund relief operations, and several nations were sending help.


Jeanne's rain-laden system proved deadly in Haiti, where more than 98 percent of the land is deforested and torrents of water and mudslides smashed down denuded hills and into the city. Floodwater lines on buildings went up to 10 feet high.


The disaster follows devastating floods in May, along the Haiti-Dominican Republic border, which left 1,191 dead and 1,484 missing in Haiti and 395 dead and 274 missing on the Dominican side. The countries share the island of Hispaniola.





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