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Jeanne kills over 700 in Haiti

In the aftermath of the tropical storm, losses in the Caribbean Island were far over the expected. There are tens of thousands homeless as the provisional government calls for international aid.

Over 700 killed, tens of thousands homeless and millionaire losses is the aftermath of the monster floods that swept Haiti as the tropical storm Jeanne passed through Latin America’s poorest country. About 600 of the deaths came from Gonaives, country’s third largest city, which was scenario of recent clashes between paramilitary groups and the ousted government of Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Waterlines up to 10 feet high on Gonaives' buildings marked the worst of the storm that sent water gushing down denuded hills, destroying homes and crops in the Artibonite region that is Haiti's breadbasket. According to observers, floodwaters receded, but half of the city was still swamped with contaminated water up to two feet deep four days after Jeanne passed. Not a house in the city of 250,000 people escaped damage.

The size of the disaster made the provisional government to ask for international aid. Haitians badly need food, medicines, physicians, clothes and drinkable water. Argentina already sent an air shipment with ten tons of supplying, which will be distributed by its peacekeeping troops in Gonaives.

At the same time, Brazilian and Jordanian troops in the U.N. peacekeeping mission sent to stabilize Haiti after rebels ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February struggled to help the needy as aid workers ferried supplies of water and food to victims. Chile’s military personnel also helped in the task.

AP reported that the homeless sloshed through the streets carrying belongings on their heads, while people with houses that still had roofs tried to dry scavenged clothes. "We're going to start burying people in mass graves," said Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Some victims were buried Monday.

AP also reports that the storm entered the Caribbean last week, killing seven people in Puerto Rico before the hurricane hit the Dominican Republic, killing at least 19, including 12 who drowned Monday in swollen rivers. The overall death toll was 717.

According to observers, floods became deadly in Haiti because country’s forests have been devastated, leaving few roots to hold back rushing waters or mudslides. Most of the trees have been chopped down to make charcoal for cooking.

Photo (AP): The city of Gonaives, from the air

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