Cholera Outbreak Kills 150 In Haiti


A cholera outbreak in a rural area of northwestern Haiti has killed more than 150 people and overwhelmed local hospitals with thousands of the sick, the World Health Organization said Friday, increasing long-held fears of an epidemic that could spread to the encampments sheltering more than a million Haitians displaced by the January earthquake.

Even as relief organizations rushed doctors, medical supplies and clean-water equipment toward the epicenter of the outbreak — the Artibonite Valley, a rice-producing area about three hours north of the capital, Port-au-Prince — Haitian radio reported cases surfacing elsewhere.

As the World Health Organization warned that it was probably impossible to contain the disease near the Artibonite, relief agencies began preparing the urban camps they oversee for the germ’s arrival.

While normally less crowded than the cities, the Artibonite is now host to thousands of earthquake refugees. Many are crowding in with relatives and drinking from the local St. Marc River, into which raw sewage also flows. The area is prone to flooding in the rainy season, which is now in progress.

Television pictures showed hospital corridors and parking lots filled with victims lying on the ground, getting intravenous fluids as crowds of screaming relatives were kept outside.

Operation Blessing International, a relief agency, said Friday that one of its filter trucks capable of cleaning 10,000 gallons of water daily had reached Babou La Port, the small town where the first cases appear to have occurred.

“A sea of multicolored buckets surrounded us” as people gathered to get clean water, the agency quoted its disaster relief director, David Darg, as saying. “There were no cheers and little laughter; most of the villagers were stunned, afraid and weak.”