Two teams of United Nations disaster experts are headed to storm-lashed Haiti and the Dominican Republic to assess the damage and coordinate emergency relief efforts following flash floods and mudslides that have killed hundreds.
The teams, comprising four to six disaster experts, are expected to leave between tonight and early tomorrow morning, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which has also provided $80,000 in emergency cash grants for both countries.
Meanwhile, the death toll continues to rise as the floodwaters recede. OCHA said Haitian authorities have reported that some 638 persons have been killed or are missing as a result of the floods. Additional assessments are planned in outlying areas where death tolls could be very high.
Authorities in the Dominican Republic report that 205 people are confirmed dead and another 375 are missing. OCHA said that several UN agencies are carrying out a rapid assessment of relief needs in the hard-hit area of Jimani.
The Multinational Interim Force (MIF) - sent to Haiti to restore order after an armed revolt against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February - is helping to airlift desperately needed supplies to hard-hit areas cut off by flood waters. Later today, MIF helicopters were to travel to Fonds Verrets in Haiti with humanitarian personnel, 12 tons of food provided by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), as well as plastic sheeting and water purification tablets.
The WFP has also released an initial $200,000 in food items and is prepared to send 50 tons of food from its warehouse in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince once the logistic setup for distribution is in place and a full assessment of needs has been carried out.