[Homestead] Haiti hurricane destruction, deaths

Tvoivozhd 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 
communal shelter.

"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 
listless infant.

"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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