Sunday, September 7, 2008

Haiti hurricane update

Haiti floods
Al Jazeera News

Hundreds of people in Haiti have moved to higher ground, leaving the town of Gonaives steeped in flood water. Many are going without food and shelter.

Hurricane Ike threatens to disrupt relief effort. Some residents climbed on top of cars to reach the second floor of their homes, where they had piled up furniture and spread sheets to provide shade, Holly Inurreta, from Catholic Relief Services, said. Tropical Storm Hanna left hundreds of people dead and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.

Teresa Bo, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gonaives, said: "This storm has already worsened what already was a critical situation ... and there could be mudslides."

Locals are "blaming the government and the United Nations because they have not eaten anything for days," she said.

Bo said further rain is making rescue operations even more difficult.

Hell on earth

In Gonaives, UN peacekeepers and aid workers are delivering high-energy biscuits and water to storm survivors, many of whom have not eaten since Monday.

"What I saw in this city today is close to hell on earth," Hedi Annabi, a UN envoy, said.

Everton Fox, Al Jazeera's meteorologist said: "Ike is making its way away from The Turks and Caicos islands pretty quickly.

"It is moving at about 25km per hour and will steadily head towards Cuba in a direct hit."

Fox said the storm will hit Cuba "strongly" but is then expected to "slow down significantly and become a category one hurricane by the time it leaves the country.

Due to a huge amount of rainfall in Cuba "there will be landslides, flash flooding and widespread devastation," he predicted.

'Hell on earth'

Dozens of children raised their hands and ran after UN food trucks that rumbled through the damp streets of Gonaives. "Hungry! Hungry!" they yelled.

Food also was brought to hungry inmates at the local jail.

The water in many neighborhoods has receded from about three metres high to about knee deep, but at least 40,000 people remain in emergency shelters.

However, the death toll in Gonaives has been reduced after Ernst Dorfeuille, the police commissioner for the city, told the Associated Press that a news report the previous evening that quoted him as saying 495 bodies had been found in Gonaives following Tropical Storm Hanna was completely wrong.

He said there were 32 confirmed deaths in this city on Haiti's west coast from the storm that hit on Monday.

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