Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Bodies pile up at Haitian morgues in storm's wake

DEVASTATED Not one house escaped damage in Gonaives when Tropical Storm Jeanne swept through, leaving more than 700 people dead


Bodies lay in growing piles outside morgues as UN peacekeepers planned the first major distribution of food and water yesterday in Gonaives, a city devastated by floods that tore apart families and left hungry crowds that have mobbed truckloads of aid.

The death toll from deluges unleashed by Tropical Storm Jeanne climbed to more than 700, Haitian officials said on Tuesday, with more than 600 of them in Gonaives alone. More than 1,000 others were declared missing.

Carcasses of pigs, goats and dogs still floated in muddy waters slowly receding from the streets in Gonaives, Haiti's third-largest city with some 250,000 people. Not a house escaped damage. The homeless sloshed through the streets carrying belongings on their heads, while people with houses that still had roofs tried to dry scavenged clothes.

Flies buzzed around bloated corpses piled high at the city's three morgues. The electricity was off, and the stench of death hung over the city.

"We're going to start burying people in mass graves," said Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

Dieufort Deslorges, spokesman for Haiti's civil protection agency, said rescue workers reported recovering 691 bodies -- about 600 of them in Gonaives and more than 40 in northern Port-de-Paix. Noel Madiro Morilus, director of Terre Neuve agriculture department, said 17 people died in that farming center north of Gonaives.

Some 1,056 people were missing, almost all from Gonaives, Deslorges said.

Deslorges said some 250,000 people were homeless across the country, and the storm destroyed at least 4,000 homes and damaged unknown thousands more.

Eight helicopters from a Brazilian-led UN peacekeeping force shuttled shipments of water, food and supplies to Gonaives on Tuesday after Chilean troops found the road from the north impassable, said Argentine Lieutenant Colonel Gaston Irigoyen, a spokesman.

Two days after lashing Haiti, Jeanne regained hurricane strength over the open Atlantic on Monday but posed no immediate threat to land.

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