Haitian storm toll may pass 1,800

The death toll from flash floods and mudslides in northern Haiti could rise to more than 1,800 when a full assessment of tropical storm Jeanne's devastation is complete, say government officials.

The death toll from flash floods and mudslides in northern Haiti could rise to more than 1,800 when a full assessment of tropical storm Jeanne's devastation is complete, say government officials.

More than 1,000 people were declared missing yesterday, and 800 have been confirmed dead.

"It appears that many people were swept away to the sea," said Dieufort Deslorges, a spokesman for Haiti's civil protection agency. "There are bodies still buried in mud and rubble, or floating in water, and that's not to mention the hundreds who are missing and the places we have not yet been able to reach."

Several countries pledged help yesterday. The European Union offered €3m (£2m) and Venezuela $1m. But with many roads impassable, only limited assistance is arriving.

United Nations helicopters have begun delivering food and blankets to Gonaives, the worst-hit city, but government officials say large-scale help is unlikely for several days.

"The response is totally insufficient," said Charles Arthur, a spokesman for the Haiti support group which is in contact with communities throughout the country. "No one can get to the north-west."

Fears were growing for remote L'iles de la Tortue, which was was hit by a tsunami.

Yolette Etienne, Oxfam's Haiti spokeswoman, said: "The situation is extremely serious. I don't know how much more we can take. It is difficult to assess the extent of the crisis, but many have died and others have had their homes and livelihoods destroyed.

"We will concentrate on providing clean water and sanitation to keep people alive and stop the spread of disease. But Haiti needs long-term attention."

Christian Aid said that unless the underlying problems of deforestation and poverty were tackled, tropical storms would continue to have a devastating effect. "Because the economic situation for many Haitians is so precarious, they rely on chopping down trees for fuel," said Judith Turbyne, Christian Aid's regional manager.


John Vidal and agencies in Gonaives

The GuardianTramp

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