More than 500 dead in Caribbean floods

Torrential rains and storms have swept the neighbouring Caribbean nations over the past two weeks and have left another 13,000 people homeless, according to officials.

At least 144 people have been killed and 236 are missing following torrential rains and flooding in the Dominican Republic, according to Dominican civil defence officials.

While officials in Haiti said at least 358 people had been killed there as a result of the extreme weather conditions.

One of the worst hit areas is Jimani in western Dominican Republic, near the border with Haiti, where about 110 people were killed and some 200 more are missing.

In Haiti, up to 100 people were killed in the town of Fond Verettes and the surrounding countryside.

“The village itself, a large portion of it, has completely washed away,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dave Lapan, a spokesman for a US-led peacekeeping force.

“The water swept down from the high ground, causing mudslides. The riverbed has covered structures and houses.”

Peacekeepers from the US and Canada, who number about 3,500, are in Haiti to try to restore order after an armed revolt ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February.

Haiti, with a population of about eight million, is the poorest country in the Americas. The Dominican Republic, with a population of 8.5 million, is more prosperous, but parts of the country, such as the Jimani area, are still grindingly poor.

The devastation in Jimani happened when a river burst its banks, sending flood waters rushing through several poor neighbourhoods and destroying hundreds of homes.

Jesus Bienvenido, deputy head of the country’s Civil Defence department, said as many as 250 people were missing and 300 homes in the area had been destroyed.

Television stations showed scenes of dozens of bodies piled up in the morgue at Jimani, many of them children and some caked with mud. Rescue workers said more dead could be buried under the mud and debris.

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