Published January 14, 2015
Surrounded by the devastation of a storm that killed hundreds of their countrymen, Haitians took time to groom themselves for church Sunday, braiding little girls' hair and polishing shoes.
"We don't have anything but we're doing our best," Joselyne Ashalus, 31, said in front of the classroom where she sleeps on the floor with eight other people made homeless by Tropical Storm Jeanne (search) a week earlier. "After all this we have to be respectful and we have to thank God for saving us. So many people died."
Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue (search) said Saturday that at least 1,500 people were dead in Haiti's ravaged northwestern province. Officials said 1,251 were missing — many thought to have washed out to sea or been buried in debris in still inaccessible areas — and 300,000 were homeless.
Sunday was sunny and bright, a blessing after thunderstorms Saturday drenched those who are living on sidewalks or on rooftops of flooded homes.
Getting ready for church, Ashalus braided her daughter's hair and decorated it with pink and white hair clips, the gift of another storm survivor. Her other four children stood around, a baby with yellow iodine-soaked bandages on both legs, a girl with one on her ankle, a toddler covered in a rash that developed after the floods brought by Jeanne.
At the church, a couple walked up in shoes newly waxed and shined.
Haiti's government is drawing up plans to move some of the homeless from Gonaives, the country's third-largest city, with a population of about 250,000. Evacuees would go to a tent camp to allow a cleanup of neighborhoods coated with contaminated sludge and debris, said Paul Magoire, an adviser to the prime minister.
The hungry and thirsty have been looting aid trucks and rioting at food distribution centers. At the schools were Ashalus is sheltering, Argentine peacekeepers fired smoke grenades Friday to drive back hundreds of men, women and children who tried to break into the schoolyard as grain and water were being handed out to an orderly line of women.
Tragedy struck at an aid center in Gonaives (search) when a 13-year-old boy was killed by a truck as crowds pressed up against the gates of the warehouse, said Roseline Corvil, an official with CARE International.
The boy was run over as the driver attempted leave. "I presume that he did not see the child," Corvil said.
Planeloads of relief supplies from several nations and aid groups have arrived in Port-au-Prince, but delivery has been delayed by damaged roads and worries about criminals who have trying to steal supplies.
The floods from Jeanne destroyed all of the rice and fruit harvest in the Artibonite, Haiti's breadbasket.
The thunderstorm that hit early Saturday pushed back up floodwaters in parts of Gonaives, where mud contaminated by overflowing sewage was forming a crust. People tried to fight the stench by holding limes or kerchiefs to their noses.
Many flood victims desperately needed professional medical treatment. More than 100 patients are being treated each day — many of them for infected wounds — by Argentine army medics, said Lt. Col. Santiago Ferreyra.