28/05/2004

UN moves in after hundreds die in Caribbean storms

The death toll from severe flooding and storms in the Caribbean island of Hispanola may be as high 1,200 people, according to reports emerging today.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic – which shares Hispanola island with Haiti – have confirmed that at least 205 people have been killed and another 375 are missing. Haitian authorities have reported that some 638 persons have been killed or are missing as a result of the floods.

Two teams of UN disaster experts are headed to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to assess the damage and coordinate emergency relief efforts following flash floods and mudslides that have killed hundreds. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has provided $80,000 in emergency cash grants for both countries. The teams, comprising four to six disaster experts, are expected to leave today.

Additional assessments are planned in outlying areas where death tolls could be very high.

OCHA said that several UN agencies are carrying out a rapid assessment of relief needs in the hard-hit area of Jimani.

The Multinational Interim Force (MIF) - sent to Haiti to restore order after an armed revolt against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February - is helping to airlift supplies to hard-hit areas cut off by flood waters. Yesterday, MIF helicopters travelled to Fonds Verrets in Haiti with humanitarian personnel, 12 tons of food provided by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), as well as plastic sheeting and water purification tablets.

The WFP has also released an initial $200,000 in food items and is prepared to send 50 tons of food from its warehouse in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince once the logistic setup for distribution is in place and a full assessment of needs has been carried out.

(gmcg)

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