- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 29, 2004

JIMANI, Dominican Republic — Dominican troops buried bodies on a tiny island surrounded by crocodiles yesterday as doctors warned of health hazards from shallow mass graves holding some of the 1,100 victims killed in floods along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Survivors searched for food and shelter from a blistering sun that raised temperatures to 95 degrees. Governments and aid agencies flew emergency aid to what some called “one of the worst natural disasters to hit the Caribbean,” according to Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria of the Organization of American States.

Venezuela sent a planeload of food, clothing and medicine, along with doctors and disaster-aid workers to Haiti.

A Spanish Red Cross plane yesterday left Madrid for the Dominican Republic, a former Spanish colony, carrying 12 tons of relief equipment including water-purification gear, cooking kits and two large tents to set up field hospitals.

Heavy rainfall expected to hinder relief efforts did not materialize, although a weak earthquake hit in the disaster zone in the south-central part of the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by the two nations. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Aid workers and troops from a U.S.-led multinational force in Haiti were trying to reach villagers cut off days ago when torrents and mudslides buried entire communities.

Among them was La Quarenta, a neighborhood of the Dominican border town of Jimani, population 13,000, where all that remains are palm trees, lopsided headstones in a cemetery and the cement foundations and chunks of wood from uprooted houses.

“We were sleeping and didn’t hear the water coming in, then I felt it on my face and tried to get out with my family. And that’s the last thing I remember,” said Alexandro Novas, 35.

He was found the next day, Tuesday, two miles from his home, with gashes in his legs. His wife was killed and his two children were presumed dead.

Officials fear the death toll will rise to as high as 2,000.

Dominican troops used a helicopter Saturday to reach an islet in a lake crawling with crocodiles where bodies were washing up. They buried 15 bodies there, said Edwin Olivares, chief of operations for the Dominican Civil Defense.

On the Haitian side, which was worst hit, the Red Cross said it also was concentrating yesterday on burying bodies.

U.S.-led troops in Haiti, including Marines, Canadians and Chileans continued to ferry food, medicine, plastic sheeting and aid workers by helicopter to Mapou and another hard-hit town, Fond Verrettes. Aid workers handed out rice and beans and fresh water.

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