Toll Still Rising From Hurricane Noel

Hdi Annabi, second from left, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Haiti, visits refugees at a school in Port-au-Prince, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007. Tropical Storm Noel has killed at least 101 people, including 40 in Haiti, since first drenching the Caribbean on Sunday night. Along with a prior deluge that devastated the area north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti has lost more than 77 people to floods this month alone. AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

More rain pounded waterlogged Haiti, drenching a country still reeling after Tropical Storm Noel killed at least 48 people here and left thousands homeless.

Remnants of Noel, now a hurricane threatening the eastern United States and Canada, caused storms all day Friday. U.N. helicopters scheduled to assess the damage in hard-to-reach areas were grounded and fresh floods were reported on the country's southern peninsula.

"It looks like it's going to be horrible. People who live near rivers or in homes that are not in good shape need to move," said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of the country's civil protection department.

The lingering storm has prevented authorities from getting a complete death toll, Jean-Baptiste said.

"After the rain who knows how many more we will find," she said.

Rains let up in the neighboring Dominican Republic, however, allowing flights carrying urgently needed relief supplies. The country has confirmed 82 deaths from Noel.

The Haitian government, still struggling to rebuild after years of turmoil, has been almost entirely dependent on overtaxed international aid groups and a U.N. peacekeeping force to cope with the disaster.

With 14,000 people displaced by the storm, makeshift shelters are overwhelmed. Desperation has set in at schoolhouse shelters in volatile Cite Soleil, where thousands are sleeping on classroom floors and screaming at U.N. soldiers to take them back to their mud-filled houses.

"There is not enough food! I feel like I am in prison!" shouted Stefan Jean-Louie, 54, who said soldiers could not provide blankets for her nine children.

Noel passed Thursday over the Bahamas, where flooding killed one man and forced the evacuation of nearly 400 people. The storm then shifted north over the ocean and headed parallel to the U.S. Atlantic coast toward Nova Scotia.

Noel is the deadliest storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, with at least 132 dead. Forecasters say 2 to 4 inches of rain could fall in North Carolina's Outer Banks, while isolated areas of New England might see 6 inches.

Impoverished Haiti is particularly vulnerable to flooding because people have cut down most of the country's trees to make charcoal, leaving the hillsides barren and unable to absorb heavy rain.


The Dominican Republic is not as deforested but also suffers from severe flooding because of its steep mountains and large numbers of people who live in simple homes along its rivers.

CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports that on the Dominican half of the island, rescuers were still struggling to save hundreds of people from swollen rivers and waterlogged villages.

Rescuers took off in helicopters and boats to reach isolated residents for the first time in three days. Hundreds of volunteers joined Dominican civil defense forces to help stranded residents, as rescue teams left at dawn Thursday - many in boats loaned by private owners.

More than three days of heavy rain caused an estimated $30 million in damages to the Dominican Republic's rice, plantain and cacao plantations, said Minister of Economy Juan Temistocles Montas. Government officials will request loans from the Inter-American Development Bank to help with the recovery.

Dominican President Leonel Fernandez pledged aid to flood victims, and the government said it had distributed more than 3 million food rations in the hardest hit areas. The first plane to arrive with international donations departed from Panama, carrying 100,000 pounds of relief supplies.

U.S. Southern Command officials said Friday they would send rescue teams to Dominican Republic over the weekend. Two helicopters from the U.S. Coast Guard have already been deployed.

The United States has contributed more than US$1 million in aid, including US$600,000 from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Aid also came from Dominicans like Joel Diaz, a 29-year-old who lives in the outskirts of the capital. "We're poor, but there are people today who don't have anything," he said as he donated clothes and canned food at an emergency management office.

Heavy downpours also continued to pound much of eastern Cuba on Friday, and state television reported that more than 30,000 people across the island had been evacuated because of rains associated with Noel. Most were staying with friends and neighbors, according to the military, which used trucks to move citizens to higher ground.

On Thursday, muddy rain-swollen waters overflowed a dam, washing into hundreds of homes, over highways and knocking out electricity and telephone service. Dozens of small communities were cut off.

Cuban soldiers went door-to-door in low-lying areas and evacuated about 24,000 people, according to state radio and television reports. At least 2,000 homes were damaged by flood waters, but there was no official word of deaths.

In Guantanamo province at Cuba's eastern tip, civil defense authorities warned of possible mudslides and reported that 60 percent of roads and highways were damaged or flooded. Electricity and phone service was spotty.

The government said more than 19,800 tons of vegetables had been destroyed by flood waters and 35,000 acres of farmland were submerged. Many small towns and villages were cut off, especially in mountains of the eastern province of Granma.
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