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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May 2004, 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK
Hundreds dead in Caribbean floods
Mourner in Jimani, Dominican Republic
People in Jimani were caught by the floods as they slept
Frantic rescue efforts are continuing in Haiti and the Dominican Republic where hundreds of people were swept away when floods struck on Monday.

More than 550 people are known to have died and amid fears of disease, bodies are being buried in mass graves.

Some of the worst affected areas are on the border between the two countries; more than 13,000 people are homeless in the Dominican Republic alone.

US and Canadian troops in Haiti are helping the relief work.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke reports from the Dominican town of Jimani, where two rivers overflowed, that a huge mudslide flattened everything in its wake, leaving what resembles a lunar landscape.

On the outskirts of town, the overwhelming force of floodwaters cut a massive scar through the landscape several kilometres long and several hundred metres wide, with nothing left in its wake.

Across the border in the Haitian town of Fonds Verettes, most of the houses were destroyed when rocks and water cascaded down the mountainside, UN officials say.

Many missing

The floods came after two weeks of persistent rain saturated the ground on the mountainous island of Hispaniola, which the two countries share.

They found my daughter - now I have to see if I have any family left
Flood victim

Entire villages have been obliterated and dozens of bodies are piling up in makeshift morgues where grief-stricken relatives are trying to identify lost family members.

As rescue workers reach the more remote areas where the flooding was at its most severe, the number of corpses being pulled from beneath the mud and wreckage continues to rise.

There are simply too many for them to get a proper burial. The dead are being buried in mass graves or simply where they are found.

Cut off

The casualty figures keep rising but Dominican officials say more than 200 people are known to have died there.

Civil protection officials in Haiti say the floods have killed some 375 people and left 3,000 homeless.

Air force and army teams have been searching for survivors.

Map

Many roads remain impassable after weeks of rain.

Peacekeepers stationed in Haiti have been using helicopters to carry supplies to the worst-hit regions, a spokesman for the US-led 3,600-strong force said.

The Dominican government has sent emergency teams, including hundreds of extra troops, from the capital, Santo Domingo.

"We are co-ordinating urgent measures to rescue survivors and evacuate people who are in danger," said National Emergency Commission chief Radhames Lora Salcedo.

Damage to both countries' crops and infrastructure is being estimated at many millions of dollars.

The European Union is preparing to send an emergency package worth some two million euros ($2.43m).


Your comments:

This has been one of the worst natural disasters since the hurricane Georges in 1998. The local community is rallying around to get bedding, clothes, food, water etc to the people affected, and even businesses are pledging their help. What upsets me the most is the fact that no one has really heard anything from the Dominican Government - how it plans to do to help the affected.
Ashley Bishop, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Being a geographer I can see the irony of people complaining about their homes being flooded, when a lot of the time its their homes causing the flooding. Concrete causes surface-run off, so the more we build, the quicker the water runs into the rivers, and the less the rivers can handle the water. If we stopped cutting down trees and concreting over things, the water would be stored in the ground for a while, and would run into the river slowly: through-flow.
Neil Maudhub, Maidstone, Kent

We had little warning of the floods before they hit our house. Me and my wife were in shock. We waited for rescue services and they found us but when we were heading out we saw people scream for help it was the most horrible thing I have ever seen.
Bob M, Jimani



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"For the survivors it is a time to grieve and a time to clear up as best they can"



SEE ALSO
'Mudslides leave massive scar'
26 May 04 |  Americas
In pictures: Dominican floods
26 May 04 |  In Pictures
Storm pummels Dominican Republic
07 Dec 03 |  Americas
Country profile: Dominican Republic
26 Nov 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Dominican Republic
02 Dec 03 |  Country profiles

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