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Gustav, Hanna Batter Haiti


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.



And I'm Melissa Block.

In Haiti, powerful storms have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and without food or water for the last four days. The latest and worst was Tropical Storm Hanna, which drenched Haiti with heavy rains. More than 200 people are reported dead - that number expected to be much higher when a full accounting is made.

NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Haiti in the capital Port-au-Prince. And Jason, I gather that you got to look at the flooded port city of Gonave as you flew into Haiti today. Tell me what it looked like.

JASON BEAUBIEN: It's really quite remarkable. You can see this river of mud that's coming down the hill. And it just goes completely into the town of Gonave. And as it goes towards the ocean, you can see that much of the city remains underwater in this brown, silty water. And in addition, you've got flooded plains all around the city. You can really see the way that the river just completely moved into the town and took over most of this city of 300,000 people.

BLOCK: You mentioned a river of mud, and this is an area that's seen massive deforestation.


BEAUBIEN: That's true. And this is a constant problem here because so much land has been cleared to make charcoal and to grow crops. Whenever there's a heavy rainstorm here, the water quickly saturates the ground. You get erosion, you get mudslides, and it's a problem that Haiti has been dealing with for quite sometime and it happened again with Tropical Storm Hanna.

BLOCK: Are any relief supplies getting through?

BEAUBIEN: Some relief supplies are starting to get in. And it's not just Gonave, its several areas throughout the country have been completely cut off. Because of these landslides, roads have been blocked. Gonave is the worst. They managed to get a boat in there today. The U.N. got a boat in there. They also have been helicoptering supplies in and sending some supplies in by plane. At the moment, however, it's next to impossible to get in there with vehicles over roads.

BLOCK: And what are you hearing from relief workers there on the capital about how dire the situation is given that people were without food and water for so long?

BEAUBIEN: What I'm hearing from relief workers is that the situation is extremely dire. We've got people who have not had anything to eat, have not had access at the clean drinking water for four days. There's been some looting going on in Gonave of warehouses. There are also some demonstrations there. You've got people who are crowded into relief workers' offices. The situation is extremely dire and the relief is just starting to flow.

BLOCK: Haiti was hit by three storms in quick succession, and there is more bad weather brewing very close by.

BEAUBIEN: People here are terrified that Hurricane Ike, which is currently out in the Atlantic and Josephine is right behind Ike, is going to come and slam into Haiti. At the moment, the hillsides are already saturated. You've got Gonave half underwater still at this point. You've got people who have fled their homes and are just living out in the open. And those people are completely exposed.

I asked one relief worker, you know, how do you prepare for this? What do you do? And she said, we're praying. That's all we can do at this point is pray that we don't get slammed by another big storm in the next few days because people are incredibly vulnerable.

BLOCK: Okay, Jason. Thanks very much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Jason Beaubien in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.