Jeanne's Death Toll Nears 2,000 in Haiti

Officials involved in the search for victims of the devastating floods unleashed by Tropical Storm Jeanne (search) said they have found hundreds more bodies, raising the death toll in Haiti to nearly 2,000 people.

Almost 900 others were listed as missing and presumed dead — washed out to sea or buried in debris. However residents in the devastated town of Gonaives (search) took hope from two exceptions Sunday.

Two men who had been among the missing were found lying semi-conscious on the ground near a clinic run by Argentine U.N. peacekeepers. Doctors said it appeared they hadn't eaten in several days and showed signs of psychological trauma — one because he lost relatives in the floods.

One of the men, 40-year-old Jacques Agelus Faustin, was found by a friend who long ago gave him up for dead.

"I wasn't even looking for him at the time," said Soupon Jean-Paul, who found Faustin collapsed under a mango tree.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (search) stopped at the U.N. peacekeepers' clinic Sunday during a visit to Gonaives.

"There's no question we have to figure out how to rebuild Gonaives," Thompson said, adding that would involve creating jobs through public works projects.

Last week, President Bush asked Congress for $50 million for storm-hit Caribbean countries, about half planned for Haiti.

Before leaving Thompson met interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue (search) and announced a donation of $235,000 worth of supplies to restock Gonaives' hospital.

The new toll stands at 1,970 dead and 884 missing, said Dieufort Deslorges, a spokesman for Haiti's civil protection agency. Officials, who had previously put the toll at 1,550 dead and about 900 missing, said hundreds more bodies were found in recent days in areas outside Gonaives.

An estimated 300,000 Haitians were left homeless, most in Gonaives, by floods unleashed by Jeanne more than two weeks ago.

In the capital, where political clashes that have killed at least 14 people in recent days, gunfire erupted Sunday in La Saline, a shantytown slum teeming with loyalists of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Residents said men fired into the air, stole food from market vendors and burned tires.

The unrest came a day after police arrested Haiti's Senate president and two other pro-Aristide politicians following a six-hour standoff in a radio station.

Latortue said the three were arrested on suspicion of orchestrating violence that erupted Thursday during protests demanding Aristide's return. Among those killed were four policemen, three of whom were beheaded after being shot to death.

But he said one of the politicians arrested, former Sen. Gerard Gilles, would be freed shortly after investigators determined he wasn't involved.

Latortue said the police killings were part of a new offensive by pro-Aristide gangs that they have dubbed "Operation Baghdad."

"You've heard about Baghdad in the media. Every time they catch a Westerner they cut off his head," Latortue told reporters.

"What is happening here ... is a climate of terror that resembles the climate of terror that we had in the four months preceding Jean-Bertrand Aristide's departure," he said.

The pro-Aristide politicians, who insisted they were innocent, were led out in handcuffs from the offices of Radio Caraibes Saturday night after a judge entered to negotiate their surrender.

Justice Minister Bernard Gousse said police found illegal weapons in one of their cars — an Uzi submachine gun and T65 assault rifle. "They're people who are barbaric and violent," he told reporters on Saturday.

Pro-Aristide groups criticized the arrests, saying police didn't have a warrant and had planted the weapons. They also say police and gangsters have opened fire on Aristide supporters, killing several people.

A 15-year-old boy was among two shot dead by police Friday during a pro-Aristide march, according to the independent group Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Latortue denied any wrongdoing by authorities, saying the government is dedicated to respecting human rights and "life of all Haitians."

Aristide, now in exile in South Africa, has accused U.S. agents of ousting him on Feb. 29 amid a bloody rebellion — a charge the U.S. government denies.

Aristide's Lavalas Family party on Thursday began three days of commemoration of the 1991 coup that toppled Aristide's first government. They demanded an end to "the occupation" and "the invasion" by foreign troops — referring to the U.S.-led force that followed Aristide's ouster and the U.N. peacekeepers who have taken over since June.

U.N. peacekeepers have been criticized for not doing more to control the violence. U.N. officials say they are doing the best they can with 3,000 peacekeepers on the ground and some 750 of them tied up dealing with the aftermath of the floods.