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Floodwater in Haiti keeps food from needy

GONAIVES, Haiti — The convoy rumbled out of the U.N. base toward a flooded, starving and seething city Thursday, carrying some of the first food aid since Tropical Storm Hanna drowned Gonaives in muddy water three days ago and killed at least 137 people.

Hungry children at three orphanages were waiting for the canvas-topped trucks, loaded with warm pots of rice and beans and towing giant tanks of drinking water. But the food never arrived Thursday.

The half dozen trucks crept over mud-caked, semipaved roads past closed stores, overturned buses and women wading in water up to their knees with plastic tubs on their heads. After about 45 minutes, the trucks ground to a halt.

U.N. peacekeepers wearing camouflage fatigues and bulletproof vests jumped out while others stood guard with assault rifles. Before them, a huge gouge marred the road. The floods had split the asphalt, and water ran through the 10-foot-wide gap.

The convoy turned around. And the children — like tens of thousands more in this increasingly desperate city — went another day without food.

Of at least 137 people who died when Hanna struck Haiti —the death toll more than doubled on Thursday — 102 were killed in Gonaives and its surroundings, officials said. Some 250,000 people are affected in the Gonaives region, including 70,000 in 150 shelters across the city, according to an international official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

Argentine Lt. Sergio Hoj estimated that half of Gonaives' houses remained flooded Thursday. Families huddled on rooftops, their possessions laid out to dry. Overturned cars were everywhere, and televisions floated in the brown water.

Gonaives — a collection of concrete buildings and run-down shacks — lies in a flat river plain between the ocean and deforested mountains. Hanna swirled over Haiti for four days, dumping vast amounts of water, blowing down fruit trees and ruining stores of food.

Two other storms killed 85 people in August, and forecasters warned that fearsome Hurricane Ike could hit Haiti next week.

Floodwater in Haiti keeps food from needy 09/04/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 3:55pm]
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