Authorities reported over 530 killed and thousands of victims in the third day of an unprecedented storm over the Island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and Dominican Republic. Mass graves are being built to accommodate the growing number of victims.
An unprecedented storm is causing a tragedy in Hispaniola Island, the Caribbean territory shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. According to reports from both countries, monster floods have already killed 533 people and left many more injured and homeless.
Last reports from Santo Domingo and Port Au Prince say that mass graves are being built to accommodate the growing number of victims. The two countries, which make up the island of Hispaniola –place of disembark for Columbus in 1492-, have borne the brunt of storms which have swept across the region.
Haiti's Interior Ministry said there were 83 confirmed deaths on the Haitian side. But the toll was steadily rising as rescue workers and family members continued to pull corpses from the mud. More than 250 were unaccounted for in the Dominican Republic and 62 were missing in Haiti, mostly in the town of Fond Verrette.
The natural tragedy came in a particular moment in Haiti, where US troops are preparing to leave after taking control of the national security of the country since the coup that ousted former president Jean Bertrand Aristide early this year. The multinational force that occupies the country, which also comprises French troopers, will be replaced on June by a joint Mercosur force formed by the national armies of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Meteorologists confirmed that weeks of incessant rain on the island of Hispaniola caused rivers to burst their banks and surge into villages, sweeping away people and houses and burying victims under mud and debris. Some bodies were carried for six miles. Power and phone lines to several small towns were cut and thousands were left homeless.
The worst affected area in Haiti was the town of Fond Verrettes, where flood waters rose from a dry riverbed and washed away hundreds of buildings. At least 158 people were killed in the town alone, and at least another 50 in the wider region, local officials said.
The flooding was the worst on the island since a 1994 tropical storm triggered mud slides which killed more than 800 people in Haiti. "This is a disaster. We are calling on Haiti's friends to help," the Haitian Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue, said.