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Haiti: Tropical rains add to the distress of victims

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Haiti: Tropical rains add to the distress of victims

PORT-AU-PRINCE, February 18, 2010 (AFP) - Thousands of homeless in Port-au-Prince were again awakened Thursday by a strong tropical storm
while the UN chief in Haiti called the international community to accelerate the delivery of tents before the rainy season.

For the second time in eight days, residents of the devastated capital were surprised at dawn by a steady rain that forced the victims to leave their shelters.

The rain rendered useless a school located in a huge camp on a golf course in Port-au-Prince. The land for the facility was covered with mud and aid workers were doing repairs to strengthen the structures damaged.

The rainy season, which precedes the hurricane in June usually begins around the month of April in Haiti but heavy rains are already falling in Port-au-Prince, sparking concern among aid.

The poorest country in the Americas was already particularly vulnerable to climatic hazards before the January 12 earthquake, which killed at least 217,000 dead and 1.2 million homeless. In 2008, four hurricanes and storms had done well over 800 deaths and about one million people were affected.

The Haitians and the UN fears that a new humanitarian disaster hits the country, especially as meteorologists warned that the probability that one or more major hurricanes hitting the Caribbean is higher this year.

Given the urgency, the Acting Head of Mission of the UN Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Edmond Mulet, on Thursday called for general mobilization.

"The rains have come and I think that we could not protect these people in time," he told a meeting in Spain with the European ministers of development assistance.

"We need latrines, tents campaign, plastic sheeting for people to cover themselves," he said, expressing concern about the sanitary conditions change with the arrival of the rainy season.

This comes after the visit to Haiti from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. In addition to announcing the release of an aid package of 326 million euros, he indicated that France would offer a thousand tents and 16,000 tarpaulins.

But it seems unlikely that all victims can benefit from temporary shelters as of next month. Despite the generosity international relief lacked "organization and coordination," according to Haitian President René Préval.

"What was needed in an emergency is a humanitarian staff who have identified needs," says he in an article published Thursday in several European newspapers, and he signed with former minister French, Nicole Guedj.

In Martinique, where he continues his journey in the Caribbean, Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday that an "international conference cities and regions of the world" for Haiti in the Caribbean to be held in late March to prepare the international conference scheduled for 22 and 23 March at UN headquarters in New York.

Regarding the abduction of children, eight of the 10 American Baptist missionaries in Haiti accused arrived in the night of Wednesday to Thursday in Miami after being held almost a month in Haiti, told AFP a source at 'Miami International Airport.

"This release is not a final decision and they will be ready to be presented to the judge", said the Haitian Secretary of State for Public Security Claudy Gassant.

Source: AFP (French)
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