Haiti suffers at least 50 deaths from Tropical Storm Jeanne
GONAIVES, Haiti -- Tropical Storm Jeanne killed at least 50 people in Haiti after battering the neighboring Dominican Republic with its lashing winds and deadly storm surge before it pushed off into the open sea on Sunday, officials said.
Floods tore through the northwestern coastal town of Gonaives and surrounding areas Saturday night, covering crops but not fully engulfing homes. Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and his interior minister toured the area in a U.N. truck, but were not able to reach many areas because of flooded roads.
Jeanne didn't appear likely to hit the storm-battered southeastern United States. It was expected to turn south over the next two days and head back out into the Atlantic, away from Florida and other states that have been battered by three major storms already this season.
At least 50 deaths were blamed on the storm in Haiti, said Brazilian Cmdr. Carlos Chagas, assistant to the U.N. force commander overseeing Haiti's peacekeeping and other missions.
Several others were reported missing and feared dead. Unlike the Dominican Republic, much of Haiti is deforested and unable to hold back flood waters.
"We don't know how many dead there are," Latortue said. "2004 has been a terrible year."
The prime minister also declared the city a disaster area and called on the international community to provide immediate humanitarian aid.
The deaths from Tropical Storm Jeanne come four months after torrential rains and floods killed more than 3,000 people along the Haitian-Dominican border. Six months ago rebels ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which left hundreds of people dead and led to the arrival of more than 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers.
Peacekeepers from Argentina, who are responsible for patrolling the region around Gonaives, bandaged three Haitians with minor injuries. Their base was flooded except for a helicopter landing zone on higher ground.
The erratic storm lashed Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Friday and Saturday, drenching northern Hispaniola and triggering flash floods.
The storm has been blamed for at least 10 other deaths. Seven died in neighboring Dominican Republic and three in Puerto Rico, including a man whose body was found Sunday floating in a river near the northwestern town of Moca.
Much of Gonaives was still under waist-deep water Sunday, and aid workers were having trouble evacuating all the people in need, said Dieufort Deslorges, a spokesman for the Haitian Ministry of Interior.
Jeanne lost strength even as it drove thousands of Dominicans from their homes late Friday. But a few hours after being downgraded to a tropical depression, it strengthened again on Saturday into a tropical storm with lashing winds.
The storm stalled over the Dominican after coming ashore Thursday as a hurricane, with winds near 80 mph. It had raged through Puerto Rico on Wednesday, dumping up to 2 feet of rain, flooding hundreds of homes and downing power lines.
At 5 p.m. EDT, Jeanne was 145 miles east-southeast of the Bahamian island of San Salvador, moving northward near 8 mph. Storm-force winds strengthened to 50 mph and stretched up to 85 miles from its center.
The Bahamian government discontinued all storm warnings.
President Bush declared the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico a disaster zone on Friday, two days after Jeanne tore through the island.
Some 200,000 of the island's 4 million residents were without running water for a fifth day on Sunday and nearly 500,000 were without electricity.
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