GONAIVES, Haiti - The Associated Press
Corpses surfaced in the muddy wreckage of this sodden city Friday as floodwaters receded after Tropical Storm Hanna, raising the known death toll to 137.
But the break in the weather is expected to be short - Hurricane Ike, now a Category 3 hurricane - could sideswipe Haiti this weekend, even as international aid groups struggle to reach thousands of victims marooned without food or drinking water.
"I am worried because the soil is completely impregnated with water and there is no way for the rivers to take more water," said Max Cocsi, who directs Belgium's mission in Haiti of Doctors Without Borders. "We don't need a hurricane - a storm would be enough."
Cocsi, who arrived in Gonaives on Thursday, told The Associated Press that no one knows how many have been killed. The focus now is on reaching the living, not recovering bodies.
Late Thursday, a few blocks from where U.N. peacekeeping troops stopped to dish out cooked rice from their own food supplies to a small crowd of hungry orphans, a woman's corpse in a floral dress was floating in a submerged intersection.
"I haven't eaten since Monday," 12-year-old Srita Omiscar said as she waited in line with about 50 others.
Earlier in the day, a convoy rumbled out of the U.N. base on the edge of Gonaives toward the city, carrying some of the first food aid since Hanna struck four days ago.
Waiting for food:
Hungry children at three orphanages were waiting for the canvas-topped trucks, loaded with warm pots of rice and beans and towing giant tanks of drinking water.
The trucks didn't make it. The convoy crept over mud-caked, semi-paved roads past closed stores, overturned buses and women wading in water up to their knees with plastic tubs on their heads.
After about 45 minutes, the half-dozen trucks ground to a halt. U.N. peacekeepers wearing camouflage fatigues and bulletproof vests jumped out while others stood guard with assault rifles. It was impossible to drive farther - floods had split the asphalt, and water ran through the 10-foot-wide (3-meter-wide) gap.
The children - like tens of thousands more in this increasingly desperate city - went another day without food.
Haiti's government has few resources to help. Rescue convoys have been blocked by floodwaters, although the U.N. World Food Program said Thursday it was sending a food-laden boat to Gonaives from the capital, Port-au-Prince, and would set up a base in the stricken city.
At least 137 people died when Hanna struck Haiti, 102 of them in Gonaives and its surroundings, officials said. Some 250,000 people are affected in the Gonaives region and 54,000 people are living shelters across the country, according to government estimates. The storm also killed at least two people in Puerto Rico.