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Hurricane Season Repeatedly Pounds Impoverished Nation of Haiti

More than 300 people have died in Haiti from back-to-back hurricanes this year, and the northern town of Gonaives remains flooded. NPR reporter Jason Beaubien describes the scene in Haiti and the damages incurred by the storms.

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    Hurricane Ike is heading to the U.S., but, already, it has hit the Caribbean islands with devastating effect. The deadliest toll from Ike and previous storms has been in the impoverished nation of Haiti.

    We get a report from Jason Beaubien of National Public Radio in the port city of Gonaives.

    Jeffrey Brown talked to him this evening by phone.


    Jason, even before Ike arrived, Haiti had been hit hard by three other storms. So, set the scene for us. What was the situation before this weekend? How bad was it already?

  • JASON BEAUBIEN, National Public Radio:

    Even before Ike hit, most of Gonaives was still flooded. The waters had receded quite a bit. The waters at one point had been up around, people were saying, three meters, so you had almost 10 feet.

    When I got here on Saturday, the water was sort of at chest level in some parts of Gonaives, but mainly sort of ankle to knee level elsewhere in Gonaives. And that was on Saturday. And then Ike hit overnight on Saturday and reflooded the — the entire city.

    But it also has not just been Gonaives. In the south, the southwest, you have also got towns that were cut off by Gustav. Some of them were battered by Tropical Storm Fay. Haiti has really been getting battered in this — this hurricane season.


    Now, we're getting reports of at least 58 dead from Ike and then hundreds of others from the storms before. Is this from the flooding and drowning? Are there also buildings collapsing? Describe what you're seeing for us.


    Mostly, it's — it's people that drowned in their homes. There were a couple of landslides, one just the other day that killed 10 people sort of between Gonaives and Port-au-Prince.

    For the most part, it's been people that have been in their homes, the waters have risen too rapidly, and people have drowned.

    It's actually quite amazing. As I said, Tropical Storm Hanna hit here on Monday. I didn't get in until Saturday. And there was some water that I was walking through that I was worried it was going to sweep me away, just pretty strong currents still in the middle of the city.

    And that's basically what — I mean, that's a week later. So, you can't imagine what that water must have been like at its peak. It was up over one-story high. Anyone that was left down there, the chances of them getting out was — were very slim. And most people took refuge on their roofs.

    And you still have got a lot of people all over Gonaives living on their roofs. That's how most people managed to ride out the storms who were down, remained down in that area.