[Homestead] Haiti hurricane destruction, deaths
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Thu Sep 23 15:51:38 EDT 2004
After one severe, but not as deadly a storm as this (couldn't get to my
factory for two days), my Polish partner Hospodar and I sent two huge
shiploads of medicine to Haiti via our buddy's Antillean steamship line,
who gave us a cost break, The U.S. Feds didn't---you wouldn't belive the
hassle they gave us, and another bunch of Federal Goons hammering on my
door in the wee hours of the morning, scaring my kids as they did when I
protested to the State Department for their role in stealing thirty
thousand dollars of silver-backed Dominican Pesos from me in collusion
with Joaquin Balaguer, their Dominican Puppet President..
From the Los Angeles Times
Haiti Storm Toll Could Reach 2,000; Many Are Still Stranded
By Carol J. Williams
Times Staff Writer
Published September 23, 2004
GONAIVES, Haiti — The death toll from Tropical Storm Jeanne threatened
to reach 2,000 Wednesday, as tens of thousands of survivors wailed for
food and water from rooftops, where they were marooned by knee-deep
moats of mud and sewage.
Four days after residents were washed from their homes, more than 1,000
bodies had been counted in Gonaives and nearly 60 in other parts of the
island's northwestern province, said Dieufort Deslorges of the civil
protection agency. The number of missing rose past 1,200.
So desperate were the survivors that Argentine troops in a U.N. aid
convoy had to fire eight shots to stop rioting outside a school so the
World Food Program and the Oxfam charity could begin handing out the
first loaves of bread and plastic bottles of water.
From the air, the city looked like a sprawl of aquatic campsites, with
blue tarpaulins provided by the relief agencies offering crude shelter
on some of the flat roofs, furnished with salvaged chairs, mattresses,
tires and clothing.
"We could only save the children. We have nothing else — it's all gone,"
said Wistha Jacques, whose four preschoolers slept on piles of damp
clothing plucked from the filthy water that had reached the eaves
Sunday. "We've had nothing to eat since we came up here and only
droplets of water."
Like 80% of the inhabitants of this city of 200,000, Jacques and her
family fled to the roof when the floodwater that had seeped into the
streets Saturday suddenly surged after nightfall, becoming rivers of
debris carrying off cars, trees and the contents of houses.
Mud-encrusted sculptures of cars tangled with uprooted trees and
bedsteads were scattered throughout the city, which was blanketed by the
stench of decaying corpses and animal carcasses.
At a makeshift home next door to the Jacques family, a mere 2-foot leap,
teacher Previlon Pradel, who had yet to find his own family, joined
dozens of neighbors under lean-tos made of sheets and sticks sprawled on
mattresses drying in the steamy tropical heat. A box spring atop a
wrecked BMW at the front of the house served as springboard up to the
"No one knows why this place is so cursed," he said of his city's
central role in the rash of crises that lately have beset Haiti.
This bicentennial year was meant to be a celebration of the slave revolt
that began in 1791 and culminated in the declaration in Gonaives of the
first independent black republic in 1804.
Instead, it began amid political strife and rioting that marred the New
Year's Day anniversary of independence and became an armed rebellion
that spread from this northern port to the doorstep of the capital,
Port-au-Prince. On Feb. 29, then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled
to escape the angry mobs that still hold sway here and in other cities.
It was, in part, thanks to gang leaders that any food got handed out
here Wednesday. Hungry youths who pushed ahead of women and children in
a ragged queue seemed to heed the orders barked by a few toughs with
bulging pockets and wraparound sunglasses as much as the warning shots
fired by the U.N. peacekeepers from a second-floor balcony.
The volume of the need has daunted peacekeepers and those trying to help.
"Everybody's desperate. They don't know where to go for the
distributions or to get medical attention at the clinics," said a
sweating and frustrated Maite Alvarez, a relief worker with Oxfam, which
trucked in 35,000 liters of drinking water. Crowds of the newly homeless
ran willy- nilly from truck to truck and building to building, hoping
that each arriving vehicle was bringing something to eat or water to
slake a thirst mocked by the ubiquitous brown floodwater.
Haitians in areas unaffected by the devastation tried to come to their
countrymen's aid. Trucks with 4-foot tires — needed to get through the
knee-deep water on Route 1 from Port-au-Prince — brought in bread rolls
and plastic packets of drinking water, which volunteers tossed to the
"We went through St. Marc with bullhorns and asked the people to help,
to give us what they could," said Herve St. Hilius, a student leader
from the city a two-hour drive to the south.
Grammy Award-winning hip hop artist Wyclef Jean, who had been in
Port-au-Prince to discuss a December benefit concert for his homeland,
hitched a ride on a U.N. helicopter to survey the destruction.
"Every Haitian is my family," he said, adding that he hoped his visit
would spur more generous donations from U.S. friends in the recording
business. "One of my main reasons for coming here is that I always bring
awareness — Haitian awareness…. I can't be here without going to see my
Jeanne killed 18 people in the adjacent Dominican Republic and three in
Puerto Rico before hitting Haiti. The storm has strengthened to
hurricane status and forecasters say it could strike the southeastern
United States this weekend.
In Haiti, Gonaives residents and shopkeepers swept sludge from floors
and porches where the water had receded enough, but relief officials
warned that the city would be dependent on foreign aid for months.
Most crops in the fertile Artibonite River valley have been inundated,
and homes were flushed of appliances, dishes, water taps and cash.
Troops and relief workers expressed concern that the central hospital,
which hasn't functioned as a medical facility since the February
rebellion, had become a health hazard, with hundreds of corpses wrapped
in sheets and stacked like rolls of carpet. Only a few dozen of the dead
have been identified.
The hospital crematorium began work Wednesday, and the Interior Ministry
said more than 100 victims were buried in what probably would be the
first of several mass graves.
Medics from the U.N. peacekeeping deployment, known by its acronym in
French, MINUSTAH, were already reporting illness and disease among the
At a clinic in an unfinished building of cinderblock walls and concrete
floors, 21-month-old Slabie Aldjuste hovered near death in the arms of
her aunt, sick from inhaling the filthy water in their harrowing escape
"I was trying to climb up to the roof to where my sister and mother were
and the water just dragged us off," said Caroline Aldjuste, bruised and
still splattered with dried mud as she waited to get help for the
"The baby got snagged on some branches and nearly drowned, but I kept
hold of her."
The four huddled on the roof, sleeping on bare concrete in darkness
alleviated only by starlight, until the water receded enough for her to
carry Slabie two miles to a doctor.
Others patients arrayed on stretchers screamed in pain as medics poured
disinfectant into four-day-old wounds — feet gashed open by rocks or
boards or other debris propelled by the raging water. Instructions to
keep the dressings clean were clearly futile.
"There's no clean water even to drink," said Louis St. Marie, 23. He
dragged a bandaged foot from the concrete floor into foot-deep mud that
stood between the clinic and the flooded route home.
Copyright © 2004, The Los Angeles Times <http://www.latimes.com>
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