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Haiti mudslides, rainstorms kill at least 13

Heavy rains have hammered southern Haiti for a full week, destroying homes and causing mudslides that have killed at least 13 people

Residents look at UN trucks being used to evacuate people and carry materials from a flooded area after they broke down and blocked the road in Thomazeau, Haiti, Monday June 6, 2011.
Residents look at UN trucks being used to evacuate people and carry materials from a flooded area after they broke down and blocked the road in Thomazeau, Haiti, Monday June 6, 2011.
Image: AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

HEAVY RAIN HAMMERED southern Haiti for a seventh straight day yesterday, triggering floods and mudslides and causing houses and shanties in the capital to collapse. The official death toll from the storm was 13 but likely to rise.

Runoff from the rain sent rivers surging and flooded many homes as people scrambled to their rooftops. The slow-moving storm system also toppled trees and debris blocked streets throughout the capital.

Haiti’s Civil Protection Department said at least 13 people were killed and more than a dozen injured.

In Petionville, a hillside neighbourhood south of downtown Port-au-Prince, a concrete house slid down a ravine and crashed into several smaller houses. Crews dug through the wreckage with a tractor for survivors.

“We are sure there are more bodies,” Petionville Mayor Claire Lydie Parent told The Associated Press. “We’re waiting to see just how many bodies there are.”

The storm system has saturated much of the Caribbean in recent days, with flooding reported in the neighboring Dominican Republic as well as in Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Authorities have attributed one death in the Dominican Republic and one in Jamaica to the weather.

In Haiti, the week of pounding rain has deepened the misery for tens of thousands of people living in the tent-and-tarp settlements that sprung up after the January 2010 earthquake. Aid groups have warned that the wet weather could worsen a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 5,300 people since October.

Michel Davison, a coordinator for the International Desk of the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, said satellite data indicate that rain drenched Haiti along the border with the Dominican Republic for at least six hours Monday night, dumping between four to six inches.

“That’s a fairly intense rainfall amount,” Davison said in a phone interview. “That’s been happening now for five, seven days. The ground is so saturated at this point that it doesn’t take much to produce floods.”

Davison said Haiti will see more rain on Wednesday, but should get a much-needed reprieve later the week.

Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, director of Haiti’s Civil Protection Department, said the 13 deaths recorded so far were people who either drowned or died in mudslides. Ten of the deaths happened in the Port-au-Prince area.

Two children died and three others were injured in the Nazon neighborhood in Port-au-Prince after the wall of a home fell on them, according to the Civil Protection Department.

Meanwhile, hospitals saw an influx of patients.

Doctors at a hospital run by the Miami aid group Project Medishare treated at least 10 people for injuries, including a puncture wound, said Gabriele Denis, a hospital administrator. Aid group Doctors Without Borders treated at least 10 people, many of them injured when walls fell on them, said Sylvain Groulx, chief of mission for Doctors Without Borders.

Haiti’s newly elected President Michel Martelly took to national television just before midnight to calm the nation as the storm was still passing over the city. “This message is to tell the population that I’m with you,” the president said.

Martelly ordered government construction workers to show up to work early on Tuesday to help remove debris.

Rains earlier this week prompted the government and international aid groups to evacuate dozens of families who live around the overflowing Lake Azuei.

- AP

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