At least nine Haitians have died after a small boat they were traveling in capsized in rough seas off the northern coast.

Interior Ministry spokesman Albert Guillaum-Meleon says the bodies of four men, four women and a child have been recovered.

He said Monday that it was not known exactly how many people were on the rickety boat and the death toll could be higher.

The vessel was carrying passengers and food items from the northwestern Haitian town of Bombardopolis to the coastal city of Gonaives when squall-like conditions hit.

Heavy downpours in recent days have increased the perennial danger of flooding and landslides. Last month, six people were killed in Port-au-Prince by floodwaters.

Guillaum-Meleon urged people not to attempt crossing a flooded street or gully.