Flooded Haitians ‘in dire need’
Floods extend across wide areas of Haiti
Several hundred thousand people need help in Haiti, which is suffering severe flooding after being hit by a series of tropical storms, the UN says.
UN official Joel Boutroue told the BBC that the situation was likely to worsen in the coming days as another strong hurricane, Ike, approaches the region.
Three storms in less than 21 days have killed more than 200 people, Haitian officials say.
Haitian President Rene Preval has said his country faces a "catastrophe".
The latest storm to hit Haiti was Hanna, which swirled over Haiti for four days, dumping massive amounts of rain, blowing down fruit trees and swamping tin-roofed houses.
The port city of Gonaives bore the brunt of the storm, forcing thousands of people to seek shelter on rooftops and balconies as flood waters rose.
The BBC’s Joseph Guyla Delva, who accompanied a team from the UN’s peacekeeping mission as they flew by helicopter over the area, says many houses have been damaged or destroyed, and that authorities estimate 80% of Gonaives’ population has been affected by the storm.
Senator Yuri Latortue, who represents the city, said about 200,000 people there had not eaten for three days.
Most of Gonaives remains under water, hindering aid convoys in their efforts to deliver food.
Prospery Raymond, from Christian Aid, said farmland has been flooded and the loss of crops is set to push food costs higher.
"The whole of the Artibonite valley has been submerged, which is where 80% of Haitian rice is grown. Rice crops were destroyed near the point of harvesting, which can only put the price of this staple food even further out of the reach of many families."
"There is no food, no water, no clothes," Arnaud Dumas, a pastor at a Gonaives church, told the Associated Press news agency. "We haven’t found anything to eat in two, three days. Nothing at all."
An AP reporter in the city said safe drinking water was in very short supply, and fetid carcasses of drowned farm animals were strewn in soupy floodwaters.
"In my area, I’d say about 20 people have died. There’s a lot of flooding and the people have nothing to eat. The people feel really bad because there’s no food, there’s no work, the people don’t know when this is going to stop."
Help is arriving in the area, with UN troops picking people from rooftops and Spain announcing that a planeload of aid was being flown in from Panama. But floodwaters were frustrating efforts to distribute food, the UN said.
After hitting Haiti, Hanna moved north, past the edge of the Bahamas. It is now expected to reach the south-eastern coast of the US late on Friday.
There are fears Hanna could become a hurricane by the time it hits the US, but the storm’s uncertain path means officials are holding off ordering an evacuation.
Tropical storm and hurricane warning from BBC weather
However, a hurricane watch is in place in North and South Carolina. Some residents have already moved boats and booked inland hotel rooms.
Meanwhile Hurricane Ike has weakened slightly into a Category Three hurricane in the open Atlantic, the NHC says.
But it added that Ike remained "dangerous".
It is too early to determine if it poses any threat to land, the NHC says.
Mr Boutroue, the UN co-ordinator for humanitarian aid in Haiti, told the BBC that aid workers face "a lot of difficulty trying to respond" in the wake of Hanna.
"In Gonaives alone we have some 70,000 people in shelters, and around 250,000 around Gonaives City need our assistance and that of the government, and throughout the country I would say around up to 600,000 people might require our assistance."
The storms, Mr Boutroue said, were likely to deepen further Haiti’s already extreme poverty.
"That potentially means more instability unless we can ensure an adequate response," he said.
The UN is stepping up its aid efforts and is launching an appeal for help, Mr Boutroue said.
The British Red Cross has also announced it is launching an appeal, saying the needs of Haiti were "massive".
Red Cross workers were also helping residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands, north of Haiti, rebuild after Hanna ripped through there on Monday.
"Our volunteers have been supporting the shelters here with food and shelter management, transporting people to hospital, and handing out tarpaulins to help keep roofs on," said the organisation’s Clive Evans, on the islands.
"There are abandoned cars everywhere, overturned boats, uprooted trees, downed power lines and flooded roads."
Haiti was first drenched by Tropical Storm Fay, before Hurricane Gustav wreaked havoc last week, with torrential rainfall over heavily deforested and hilly terrain causing floods and mudslides.
Earlier Hanna was also blamed for two deaths in Puerto Rico.
FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Washington Post Attempts to Aid Desperate Haitians Hindered by Floodwaters – 11 hrs ago
Journal Times Online Rescuers can’t get aid to starving Haitian city – 11 hrs ago
The Sun News Rescuers can’t get aid to starving Haitian city – 14 hrs ago
MSNBC Haiti’s death toll from Hanna doubles – 14 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Storm-hit Haitians starve on rooftops – 19 hrs ago
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