By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 21 (Reuters) - Floods triggered by torrential rains have killed at least 11 people in Haiti, as the poor Caribbean nation struggles to recover from last year’s disasters, civil protection officials said on Thursday.
Several hundred homes have been damaged or destroyed and more than 600 families have been left homeless from flooding during the past three days, according to official reports.
"The 11 victims we counted is the death toll we have registered since last night," Pierre-Louis Pinchinat, assistant director of the civil protection office, said. "But we fear the death toll may be a little higher since the rain continued to fall until today in several parts of the country."
Most of the victims were killed while crossing rivers or when their flimsy homes collapsed, officials said. Five died in the northern Artibonite area, three in the Central Plateau, two in the South and one in the Grande-Anse area.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is vulnerable to floods due to massive deforestation, poor drainage in cities and because many shanty towns were built near river beds.
About 800 people were killed last year by a succession of storms and hurricanes. The scars of those storms are still visible in the hardest-hit city, Gonaives.
Many Haitians fear they could face new destruction during the hurricane season that begins on June 1. Haitian government agencies have stepped up efforts to set up shelters. (Editing by Jim Loney and Paul Simao)