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UN mission assists Haitians after second tropical storm strikes in less than a week

NEW YORK – The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti is assisting local authorities in rescue and relief efforts in the northern city of Gonaives after it was hit this morning by floods and mudslides triggered by Tropical Storm Hanna, the second storm in a week to strike the country.

Peacekeepers from the UN mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, are assessing the safety of roads and bridges in the wake of the storm, as part of the technical and logistical assistance the mission is providing to authorities.

“At noon today (Sept. 2), the UN mission provided a helicopter to help lift stranded patients to the third floor of the hospital in Gonaives to escape flooding,” MINUSTAH spokesperson Sophie Boutaud de la Combe added. “As soon as meteorological conditions allow a helicopter will be dispatched to assist the evacuation.”

Ms. Boutaud de la Combe reported that the situation is very similar to Tropical Storm Jeanne four years ago, which left around 2,500 dead or missing in Gonaives, a port city in the north of the impoverished Caribbean country.

Media reports say at least 10 people have been killed so far in Haiti by Tropical Storm Hanna, which has also lashed the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands and is now heading for the United States.

In the past week Hurricane Gustav has claimed dozens of lives, mostly in Haiti, as it has swept across the region, while Tropical Storm Fay – which struck in mid-August – also claimed lives in Haiti and caused widespread flooding and damage to infrastructure.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are already providing life-saving assistance to thousands of Haitians living in temporary shelters as a result of Gustav, while MINUSTAH and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have also assisted in recovery efforts.

MINUSTAH peacekeepers have distributed drinking water to about 10,000 people in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest neighbourhoods of the capital, Port-au-Prince. A helicopter was also dispatched to carry three tons of relief materials to Bainet, a hard-hit area in the south-east.

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