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US Forces Help With Relief Efforts in Haiti - 2004-05-28


Members of the U.S.-led multinational interim peacekeeping force in Haiti are shuttling relief supplies by air to isolated areas along the border with the Dominican Republic after severe flooding that has claimed at least a thousand lives.

About 100 members of the U.S.-led peacekeeping force in Haiti are directly involved in the relief effort, which is now focused on two southeastern villages, Fond Verrettes and Mapou.

As a result of flooding and landslides, both are inaccessible by road. The only way to get supplies in is by helicopter and the only helicopters in Haiti are those of the U.S.-led multinational force.

U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Dave Lapin is a spokesman for the peacekeepers, deployed in Haiti at the end of February amid political unrest that prompted the country's president to flee.

Colonel Lapin said in a VOA interview that weather conditions remain a threat to the relief operation. "The forecast has been for showers and thunderstorms to move into the area, so each day we try to push as much out in the early morning (calm) as we can, so if we are weathered out we've gotten the bulk of the work done," he explained.

"The village of Fond Verrettes was the first one that we focused on," said Colonel Lapin, describing the relief supplies delivered so far. "We brought in quite a bit of food supplies there - beans, rice, cooking oil - materials for shelter like plastic sheeting. Over the last day or so, we've been able to focus efforts on Mapou, bringing in water and today we are bringing in large amounts of rice, beans, subsistence items."

Teams from the United Nations and the Red Cross are also involved in the relief effort to flood-ravaged areas on both sides of the Haiti - Dominican border.

Entire villages have been wiped out and aid workers fear the death toll could reach as high as 2,000.

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