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Destruction and death sweep Haiti

Blood swirled in knee-deep floodwaters as workers stacked bodies outside the hospital morgue Tuesday. Carcasses of pigs, goats and dogs and pieces of smashed furniture floated in muddy streams that once were the streets of this battered city. Desperate people swarmed a truck delivering water.

The death toll across Haiti from the weekend deluges brought by Tropical Storm Jeanne rose to more than 700, with about 600 of them in Gonaives. Officials said they expected to find more dead and estimated tens of thousands of people were homeless.

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.

Floodwaters receded, but half of Haiti's third-largest 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 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.

Flies buzzed around bloated corpses piled high at the city's three morgues, where the electricity was off as temperatures reached into the 90s.

Only about 30 of the 250 bodies at the morgue of the flood-damaged General Hospital had been identified, said Dr. Daniel Rubens of the International Red Cross.

Many of the dead there were children.

"I lost my kids and there's nothing I can do," said Jean Estimable, whose 2-year-old daughter was killed and another of his five children was missing and presumed dead.

Dieufort Deslorges, spokesman for the civil protection agency, said he expected the death toll to rise as reports came in from outlying villages and estimated 250,000 Haitians had been made homeless.

Rescue workers reported recovering 691 bodies by Tuesday night _ about 600 of them in Gonaives and more than 40 in northern Port-de-Paix, Deslorges said. In addition, at least 51 were recovered in other areas.

But Deslorges said there were dozens more dead still unaccounted for, which would bring the toll past 700. "It appears many were swept away to the sea, there are bodies still buried in mud and rubble, or floating in water," he told the AP.

He said relief workers were operating under "extremely difficult conditions: no electricity, all landline telephone service is cut, cell phones work very badly and then there's no power to recharge them."

Gonaives was blacked out Tuesday night. Only a handful of buildings were lit and hotels packed with displaced people were in darkness because they had run out of fuel for generators.

More than 1,000 were missing, said Raoul Elysee, head of the Haitian Red Cross, which was trying desperately to find doctors to help. The international aid group CARE said 85 of its 200 workers in Gonaives were unaccounted for.

"It's really catastrophic," said Francoise Gruloos of the U.N. Children's Fund.

The aid group Food for the Poor said the main road north from Gonaives was impassable _ it was unclear whether from mudslides or debris _ and there were fears that hundreds of possible flood victims may be out of reach.

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 water and food to victims.

CARE spokesman Rick Perera said the agency had about 660 tons of dry food in Gonaives, including corn-soy blend, dried lentils and cooking oil and was trying to set up distribution points.

Police said aid vehicles were being waylaid by mobs on the outskirts of Gonaives. One truck that made it to City Hall in the town center was swarmed by people who began throwing its load of bagged water into the crowd, setting off a melee. The driver sped off, bouncing people off the truck.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Haiti's interim president, Boniface Alexandre, pleaded for help.

"In the face of this tragedy I appeal urgently for the solidarity of the international community so it may once again support the government in the framework of emergency assistance," he said.

Several nations were sending aid including $1.8-million from the European Union and $1-million and rescue supplies from Venezuela. The U.S. Embassy announced $60,000 in immediate relief aid Monday, drawing criticism from Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., who called it "a drop in the bucket."

Jeanne came four months after devastating floods along Haiti's southern border with the Dominican Republic. Some 1,700 bodies were recovered and 1,600 more were presumed dead.

Gonaives also suffered fighting during the February rebellion that led to the ouster of Aristide and left an estimated 300 dead.

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.

On Tuesday, Jeanne was posing no threat to land, about 515 miles east of Great Abaco island in the Bahamas.

Ivan update

Searchers found the bodies of a missing Tennessee woman and her young son Tuesday, raising the death toll to 10 from flooding in the North Carolina mountains caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

A search had been under way since Saturday, after Danielle Forrester's Ford Escort was found on a flooded road near the Pigeon River in Harmon Den. The bodies of the 27-year-old Sevierville, Tenn., woman and her 4-year-old son, Julian, were found Tuesday on the banks of the river at least a half-mile away, said Haywood County Sheriff Tom Alexander.

Alexander said it appeared the young mother and child got out of the flooded car and tried to cross a nearby bridge when they were swept away by rapids.

Meanwhile, officials in Macon County were still trying to identify human remains found in the rubble of a landslide in southwestern North Carolina. Rescuers using cadaver-sniffing dogs found the partial remains Monday under tons of mud and debris.

Three people have been confirmed dead in Peeks Creek. A woman who survived remained hospitalized after doctors amputated one of her legs.

The known victims have been identified as Sharon McCollum, 54, of Franklin, Colton McCollum, 3, of Franklin, and Katie Watts of Pensacola. Watts' husband, James, was still missing.

The storm also killed two men in Buncombe County, a man in Henderson County and women in Haywood and Yancey counties.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Mike Easley continued his tour of the flood-damaged area with a flyover of Watauga and Avery counties, in the northwest part of the state.

Easley was amazed at the miles of debris. He said he would dip into the state's $250-million rainy day fund to help with cleanup costs.

"The message today is that you need to tell us what you need, and we'll get it for you," he said. "You will be okay up here, because everyone is pulling together."

Officials from Alabama to North Carolina warned residents to sterilize anything in contact with floodwaters. Flooding often inundates sewage-treatment plants, and it's likely that the brown floodwaters contain human waste.

Karl weakens

Hurricane Karl weakened slightly Tuesday and stayed on a course in the open ocean that only threatened ships, while Tropical Storm Lisa became stronger far out in the Atlantic.

Karl had top sustained wind near 120 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters expected Karl's strength to remain the same over the next day.

At 5 p.m., Karl was centered about 990 miles east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands in the Caribbean and was moving north-northwest at about 16 mph. Lisa had top sustained winds near 70 mph, just below the 74 mph threshold to become a hurricane.

Lisa was centered about 1,090 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands and was moving west-northwest at about 8 mph.

Haiti's deadly floods

Deforestation is a major contributor to the devasting floods caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne. The crowded northern city of Gonaives has been hit the hardest this time, with half the city still under water.

Torrential rains hit soil not anchored down by tree roots.

Water drains downhill toward river bed, dragging mud, rocks with it.

River banks disintegrate, water flows unimpeded by natural barriers.

Flood destroys buildings, agriculture near rivers and dried out riverbeds.

Haiti is one of the world's most deforested nations; high population density has increased demand for land and wood, limiting natural protection from flooding.

Source: United Nations

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