U.S. Water News Online
GONAIVES, Haiti -- Workers dug new mass graves for corpses
that still littered this flood-ravaged city as the death toll from
Tropical Storm Jeanne rose to more than 1,070 and residents grew
increasingly agitated from a lack of food and drinkable water.
Health workers feared an epidemic from the unburied bodies, raw
sewage in drinking water and infections from injuries. About 250,000
were left homeless in Haiti's northwest province, which includes the
port of Gonaives, from the weekend storm.
Officials say the death toll could reach 2,000, with more than
1,250 reported missing and presumed washed out to sea, buried in mud
or floating in houses still inaccessible to rescuers.
Survivors who spent the night crammed into schools, churches and
on rooftops slogged through contaminated, ankle-deep mud in Gonaives,
where more bodies lay unclaimed in waterlogged fields. Residents held
limes to their noses against the stench of the bodies and overflowing
"There are so many bodies, you smell them but you don't see them,"
said farmer Louise Roland. She said her rice and corn field was under
water so she walked miles to town to try to get food.
Aid workers feared that waterborne diseases could erupt.
"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
Gruloos said some residents were marooned on the roofs of homes
surrounded by water and mud, scared to climb down into the filth.
People defecated on sidewalks.
The government's civil protection agency said more than 900 people
have been treated, most for cuts and gashes. But the main General
Hospital was out of commission, medical supplies were running out,
and some aid trucks couldn't reach Gonaives because part of the road
was washed away.
Trucks dumped up to 200 bodies into a mass grave at sunset, but
hundreds more were piled up outside morgues without electricity,
There was no funeral ceremony when the bodies were dumped into a
14-foot-deep hole at sunset. Dozens of bystanders shrieked and told
officials to collect nearby unburied bodies.
"We're demanding they come and take the bodies from our fields.
Dogs are eating them," said bystander Jean Lebrun.
Only a couple dozen bodies have been identified, and nobody was
taking count at the Bois Marchand cemetery -- the only one in the
city not under water.
"We can only drink the water people died in," the 35-year-old
farmer said, citing a lack of potable water six days after the
Dieufort Deslorges, spokesman for the government's civil
protection agency, said the confirmed death toll rose to 1,072, with
1,013 bodies recovered in Gonaives alone.
Aid agencies have dry food stocked in Gonaives, but few have the
means to cook. Food for the Poor, based in Deerfield, Fla., said its
truckloads of relief were unable to reach the city. Troops from the
Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeeping forcing were ferrying in some
supplies by helicopter.
Peacekeepers fired into the air to keep a crowd at bay as aid
workers handed out loaves of bread -- the first food in days for
"The situation is not getting better because people have been
without food or water for three or four days," said Hans Havik, of
the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The federation appealed for $3.3 million to fund relief operations
to 40,000 Haitian victims, and several nations were sending help.
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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