Succession Of Storms Cripples Haiti
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And now we go to Haiti which is still reeling from a brutal hurricane season. More than 300 people have been killed on the island since the storms began hitting last month. Many Haitians have been without drinking water and electricity for weeks. Many parts of the island are now flooded, including the devastated city of Gonaives. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports.
JASON BEAUBIEN: Outside the main prison in Gonaives on a street awash with gooey, brown mud, a U.N. peacekeeper is stitching up a woman's foot. The main hospital in Gonaives and most of the health clinics were destroyed in Tropical Storm Hanna. Captain Manzura Ahmed(ph) from the Pakistani brigade says it would take too long to send this woman through the floodwaters to the one remaining hospital across town.
Captain MANZURA AHMED (Pakistani Brigade): It was a necessity. If we don't move her, she may bleed a lot, OK. It was a necessity over there.
BEAUBIEN: He said he had no choice but to deal with the wound immediately. The woman is resting her bloody foot on a T-shirt in the mud. Captain Ahmed is sewing up the wide gash on the top of her foot as a large crowd looks on. Word quickly spread that a doctor was outside the prison, and people started carrying other injured and sick to Captain Ahmed for attention.
(Soundbite of prison inmates chanting)
BEAUBIEN: Inside the prison, inmates are chanting that they don't have anything to eat. When Captain Ahmed isn't performing first aid out on the street, he is one of the Pakistani soldiers assigned to help guard the more than 200 inmates in the Gonaives jail. During Tropical Storm Hanna, the prison flooded and the Pakistanis had to move the prisoners up on to the roof at three in the morning. Ahmed says it's true that the inmates don't have any food.
Captain AHMED: Right now they haven't got any food because, you know, the vehicle which was bringing water and food, as I already explained, it is stuck up on the way. You might have seen. When the vehicle will get through, definitely we will be giving them the food. But that food is not enough. Even we are facing shortage of food and water because of these environments.
BEAUBIEN: To help the aid effort, the U.S. navy has sent the U.S.S. Kearsarge which carries eight helicopters. The massive choppers are capable of moving heavy cargo from ships into Gonaives. This is hugely important because Hurricane Ike knocked out the last road connecting Gonaives to the capital, Port-au-Prince. The only problem at the moment is there's nowhere from them to land. Eric Mouillefarine is the top U.N. humanitarian official here. He says currently the only landing pad they have is on the U.N. base, and it's already overly congested.
Mr. ERIC MOUILLEFARINE (Humanitarian Official, U.N. Development Program): We made an assessment this morning. We tried to look for the soccer field, and other places were absolutely flooded. There is no way, no where we can land at the moment unless we find a new zone, which we are looking for.
BEAUBIEN: The U.S.S. Kearsarge also has three amphibious landing craft which will be used initially to move relief supplies from the main vessel on to shore. And people here are desperate for assistance. The Catholic cathedral of Gonaives is inundated with mud. The pews are strewn in every direction as if the devil himself had come in and furiously kicked the chairs about. Roughly 50 people have been living in the back upper balcony of the cathedral for more than a week. Thirty-four-year-old Avalon Latrafuse(ph) says he's still alive by the grace of God.
Mr. AVALON LATRAFUSE (Hurricane Victim, Gonaives): (Creole spoken)
Unidentified Interpretor: He said, yes, he have faith in God. While he was in the rain, while it was raining so hard and the wind was blowing, he was praying that God will calm the water, calm the wind, so that he will be able to make it somewhere with his kids.
BEAUBIEN: But not all of his children made it. One of his four daughters, he says, 13-year-old Wadalene(ph), was washed away in the current. He says Tropical Storm Hanna destroyed his house, and now he'll stay here in the church until he can get help from the government or someone to rebuild. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Gonaives, Haiti.
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