Originally created 09/21/04

Tropical Storm Jeanne kills more than 100 in Haiti

GONAIVES, Haiti - Raging floodwaters from Tropical Storm Jeanne killed more than 100 people in Haiti, where roads and fields were still inundated Monday and survivors were taking to rooftops and trees days after the storm passed.

The confirmed death toll, mostly in northwestern Haiti, rose to at least 109 Monday based on reports from government and humanitarian officials. Officials said they expect the toll to rise further.

Jeanne was churning over the open Atlantic east of the Bahamas and was forecast to strengthen over open seas this week, heading away from the U.S. mainland.

But officials in Haiti were still trying to determine the toll from flooding that swept over parts of the country Saturday after Jeanne swept by.

In the northwestern coastal town of Gonaives, Haiti's third largest city of about a quarter million people, people on Monday waded through ankle-deep mud outside the mayor's office, where workers were shoveling out mud. Aid workers inside helped a woman give birth.

Floodwaters covered crops and turned roads into rivers in the town and surrounding areas.

Katya Silme, 18, said she, her mother and six siblings spent the night in a tree because their house was flooded.

"The river destroyed my house completely, and now we have nothing. We have not eaten anything since the floods. We have no money and we need food," said Silme, who added that she had seen many neighbors swept away in the waters Saturday.

Nearby two dead children, their faces covered with cloth, lay on a porch just above the receding waters. The water was still near knee-deep in places.

Rev. Venel Suffrard, director of the Catholic humanitarian agency Caritas in Gonaives, said his workers had picked up 62 bodies in pickup trucks and counted another 18 at a morgue in Gonaives alone.

Floodwaters also left much destruction and at least 24 dead in the northwestern town of Chansolme, civil protection director Maria Alta Jean-Baptiste said. She also reported at least four dead in northwestern Port-de-Paix and one dead elsewhere in the south.

The deaths came four months after devastating May floods along the southern border of Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic. In those floods some 1,700 bodies were recovered and 1,600 more people were missing and presumed dead.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and his interior minister toured the area in a U.N. truck Sunday, but were not able to reach many areas because of washed out roads.

"We don't know how many dead there are," Latortue said, adding "2004 has been a terrible year."

In February, a three-week rebellion led up to the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and left an estimated 300 dead.

Floods are often particularly devastating in Haiti because it is almost completely deforested and unable to hold back floodwaters.

The floods caught residents by surprise Saturday night. Jean-Baptiste Agilus, a 46-year-old teacher, said he watched the deluge engulf houses in his neighborhood, filling some with 13 feet of water.

Agilus said he saw his neighbor running from his house, saying his wife and two children, ages 12 and 15, were swept away in the rising waters.

"The water rushed into their home, all the homes in the neighborhood," he said. "It destroyed everything."

Many families, with nowhere else to turn, remained on their flat concrete rooftops surrounded by bundles of belongings.

Officials reported at least 388 people injured in Gonaives alone, and hundreds were forced from their homes.

No doctors staffed Gonaives' main hospital, but it was being used as a morgue.

Latortue declared Gonaives a disaster area and urged the international community to provide immediate humanitarian aid. More than 3,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops are in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country with a population of 8 million.

Tropical Storm Jeanne has been blamed for at least 119 deaths. Seven died in neighboring Dominican Republic and three in Puerto Rico.

At 11 a.m. EDT, Jeanne was centered about 345 miles east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, with sustained winds near 65 mph, moving north-northeast at about 7 mph. Forecasters said Jeanne still could regain hurricane status, though it was headed out into the open Atlantic.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Karl and Tropical Storm Lisa remained far out in the open Atlantic and were not immediate threats to land. Karl's sustained winds diminished to 120 mph, making it a Category 3 hurricane. Lisa had winds of 60 mph.

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