SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- (AP) -- Cash and donations from
Dominicans living in the United States -- substantial under normal circumstances --
have become a lifeline for this Caribbean nation reeling from its worst natural
disaster in decades.
The Dominican death toll rose Wednesday from 210 to 249, President Leonel
Fernandez's office said. At least 100,000 lost their homes when Georges'
110-mph winds struck the Dominican Republic on Sept. 22.
The storm killed at least 407 people last week. The number of hurricane
also rose in neighboring Haiti, where the discovery of more bodies in Fonds
Verrettes, 50 miles east of Port-au-Prince, the capital, pushed the death toll from
87 to 147. At least 40 others were missing.
While official foreign relief is growing in the Dominican Republic, shortages
food, water and shelter are driving many storm victims to the point of desperation.
Visiting U.S. congressmen and U.S. Agency for International Development
officials Wednesday announced a $47 million aid package for the Dominican
Republic and Haiti -- the two countries most affected by the hurricane.
In Washington, the Clinton administration said that three U.S. C-130 cargo
were bringing humanitarian aid from New York state.
For many poor Dominicans, however, help from friends and family who left
better life abroad will be the most dependable and long-lasting source of support.
An estimated 1.3 million Dominicans live in New York, New Jersey, Miami,
Boston and other areas. More than 1 million are in New York, where Dominicans
formed a 1,500-car caravan to shuttle food, clothing and medicine to Kennedy
Airport last week.
``It's the poorest people -- factory workers, small businessmen, taxi drivers.
name it and they're coming forward,'' said Fernando Mateo, an organizer of the
New York aid drive and a self-made millionaire in the flooring business whose
parents brought him to the United States when he was a toddler.
Working with Santo Domingo's mayor, merengue singer Johnny Ventura, Mateo
has marshaled 300 local volunteers and hopes to bring in at least five planeloads of
His delivery of water, cooking oil, pillows and clothing to Santo Domingo's
flooded Sabana Perdida neighborhood was the first to arrive there since the
hurricane. It nearly caused a riot among residents fighting for aid.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald