Positive Environment News

Haiti Calls For Storm Season Help, Floods Kill 11

Date: 10-May-05
Country: HAITI
Author: Joseph Guyler Delva

Interior Minister Georges Moise said a large number of people could die if not relocated from areas vulnerable to mudslides or flash floods. He did not specify how many people would need to be moved or how much such an operation would cost.

In September, torrential rains killed 3,000 people in the northern port city of Gonaives after Tropical Storm Jeanne, later to become a hurricane, swept to the north of the impoverished Caribbean country. Floods in the South of Haiti killed another 2,000 people last May.

"It is a very urgent matter, a disaster may occur any time. We need to move those people to another place," Moise told Reuters in an interview.

"We want to act, but we don't have the financial means. We need the international community to help us," he said.

At least 11 people, including a pregnant woman and a 2-year-old girl, were killed early on Saturday when floods triggered by two hours of heavy rains covered their flimsy homes in the Coquillo Nazon district of Port-au-Prince.

Officials at the civil protection office said the flooding was aggravated by the obstruction of drains by dirt and debris. The flood-struck neighborhood is below street level.

"They are like living in a hole, so when it rains the water just fills the place and cover the houses," a civil protection investigator said.

Moise said the interior ministry wanted to build shelters for potential flood victims. The Atlantic-Caribbean basin hurricane season begins on June 1 and runs until the end of November.

"If the international community could help us find the funding to build shelters, even temporary shelters with tents, that would be very helpful," Moise said.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is vulnerable to weather-related disasters because 98 percent of its forests have been chopped down to produce charcoal for cooking.

International donors last year pledged more than $1 billion in aid after the United Nations established a peacekeeping mission in the country. Little of that money has been dispersed. Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in February 2004 after a monthlong armed revolt and under US and French pressure to quit.

© Thomson Reuters 2005 All rights reserved

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