IFRC

Hundreds killed or missing in Hispaniola floods

Published: 26 May 2004 0:00 CET

Alejandra Arauz

More than 500 people have died and hundreds more are missing as a result of the heavy rains and flooding that have lashed the Caribbean island of Hispaniola since last weekend.

Officials said at least 358 people have been killed in Haiti, while 144 have perished in the Dominican Republic.

The areas of the Dominican Republic worst hit following the overflowing of Solei river are on the border between the two countries, such as the community of Jimaní, in the southern Dominican Republic province of Independencia which is without electricity and drinking water and has problems with telephone communications and its sewage system.

The situation is similar in Las Cuarenta, La Curva, La Bombita and Batey, the latter inhabited primarily by Haitians.

Other districts in the south, north-west and north-east, as well as in the capital, Santo Domingo, have also been affected by the floods. Three hundred families in Costuí lack any kind of communication and hundreds of poor houses were washed away by the water.

"This is a major tragedy”, Hipólito Mejía, president of the Dominican Republic, told the country on Monday evening. He arranged for military doctors, medicine, blankets and food to be dispatched to the area to help the hundreds of affected families, who had taken refuge in the local army headquarters.

Quick response

Atahualpa Read, director of the Dominican Red Cross National Relief and Emergency Programme, said that, to date, some 143 bodies had been recovered, while more than 360 were missing. Some 40 severely injured persons had been rescued, most of them had been dragged away by the strong current.

“We are actively recovering bodies, rescuing persons, providing pre-hospital and out-of-hospital care and evaluating damage and needs,” Read explained. “We are providing first aid and psychological support. We are currently preparing a convoy which is going with more staff to assist other areas, not just Jimaní, but also in the north-east as floods are also being reported in Bajo Yuna.”

Since the end of last week, some 60 Dominican Red Cross volunteers have been engaged in just Jimaní, the worst affected region, and 25 have now arrived, in addition to the psychosocial support teams also sent to the area. A similar number of volunteers has been sent to Bajo Yuna. Some 200 volunteers more, in addition to the 225 active in Santo Domingo, are working in Montecristi, Valverde and Mao.

“If necessary, we will continue to send more persons for both response and prevention as the waters in some rivers are still rising,” said Read, who has confidence in the capacity of the Dominican Red Cross volunteers. “Our volunteers have just received training on contingency planning and they are now responding very well to these floods, I feel, much faster than in the past.”

On Monday, the International Federation sent a disaster management delegate and a telecommunications delegate, both from its Pan-American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) to help the Dominican Red Cross in damage and needs assessment activities. Another Federation delegate is in Haiti.

This is believed to be the worst weather-related tragedy to strike the Dominican Republic. In 1998, similar floods affected the southern population in San Juan de la Maguana, when the Mesopotamia river overflowed and washed away dozens of poor houses during Hurricane George.




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