Haiti riots as cholera spills over border

FRESH rioting has killed one man in Haiti as fears grow that the cholera epidemic may spread beyond Haiti’s borders and claim 10,000 lives.

Haiti’s Health Ministry said yesterday 1100 people had died from cholera since the disease was first detected late last month.

The number of people in hospital grew to 18,382.

“Our projections show that we could have around 200,000 cases of infection in Haiti over the next six to 12 months,” said Pan-American Health Organisation regional adviser Ciro Ugarte.

“If the fatality rate (of 4-5 per cent) is maintained . . . we may have 10,000 dead.”

Isolated cholera cases have been found in the Dominican Republic – which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti – and as far away as the southern US state of Florida.

Aid workers – who are suspected of starting the outbreak – complained that protests were holding up relief operations in the second city of Cap Haitien, while a top UN official said the demonstrations were being “orchestrated”.

Two Haitians were killed in riots in Cap Haitien on Monday, one shot by a UN peacekeeper as protesters set a police station and vehicles ablaze and threatened to torch a UN compound.

A police source said a third person was shot dead in fresh rioting in the city yesterday.

UN spokesman Vincenzo Pugliese could not confirm the fatality, but said UN workers had not been able to get to work yesterday because of the tensions in the city.

The Oxfam aid group confirmed the protests and said it was worried the unrest could lead to a faster spread of the cholera that has already killed more than 1100 people in the country.

“Roads are blocked with protesters and burning tyres, and we physically can’t get to our work sites, especially with trucks carrying crucial supplies like soap, water tablets or rehydration salts,” said Julie Schindall, the Oxfam spokeswoman in Haiti.

The UN said that in one incident this week, a World Food Program warehouse had been looted of 500 tonnes of food and burned.

“The violence is delaying our cholera response in Cap Haitien,” Ms Schindall said.

“We’re obviously frustrated by it and worried for the people that desperately need clean water.”

The cholera outbreak – the first in half a century in the impoverished Caribbean nation – is bringing new chaos to Haiti, ravaged in a January quake that killed 250,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless.

And health officials fear the disease could spread ever faster if it infiltrates Haiti’s squalid relocation camps around the capital, where hundreds of thousands of quake refugees live in cramped and unsanitary conditions.

The disease has surfaced for the first time in the Dominican Republic, with one person who crossed over the border from Haiti being treated for vomiting and diarrhoea.

And Florida officials confirmed that a woman who recently visited relatives in Haiti had tested positive for cholera in the southern US state.

Florida – home to a large Haitian community of about 240,000 people, who travel frequently to the nation – is already on alert for any outbreak of the water-borne disease.

There are claims the outbreak emanated from septic tanks at a base for Nepalese peacekeepers, where some believe infected faeces leaked into a tributary of the Artibonite River, used by locals for drinking and bathing.

The rumours sparked violent protests this week against the UN troops.

The UN force, known as MINUSTAH, issued a statement linking the protests to presidential elections and calling on Haitians not to allow themselves to be manipulated by “the enemies of stability and democracy”.

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