BY MICHAEL NORTON
ST. MARC, Haiti -- Torrential rain burst riverbanks, sweeping away at least eight people and destroying dozens of flimsy riverside shacks in Haiti's west coast city of St. Marc, officials said Saturday.
About 200 of the city's 60,000 residents fled their homes and took refuge in government offices and a high school, said Gerald Joseph of Haiti's civil defense.
Junie Louis-Pierre, 33, said she watched as her husband, Norius Dezimar, 35, was sucked away by strong currents after he was able to get her and their three children to safety on the roof of their home. He was missing and presumed dead, she said.
Most damage occurred along a 1.25-mile stretch of the Grande Riviere, which flows through the city, when the river burst its banks during a five-hour storm Friday afternoon. The raging waters tore away flimsy tin-roofed shacks, and in some places the water rose two to three feet.
''We watched the water rise, and when it entered the house we ran,'' said Delise Toussaint, 76, who spent the night sleeping in the woods with his family of 10. His three-room house just outside St. Marc was swept away.
Rain pelted the Artibonite district in west-central Haiti on Friday, swelling streams and rivers that descended on seaside St. Marc.
As waters from the storm subsided, the bodies of eight victims, apparently drowned, were found Saturday morning in the city, which is 40 miles west of Port-au-Prince.
The local government representative, Daniel Jean-Charles, said it would take a week to determine the death toll because bodies might have been washed out to sea. He did not estimate how many people were missing.
Saturday was bright and sunny, and residents began shoveling mud from their cinder-block homes and hoisting sopping, mud-stained mattresses and clothing outside to dry. They also were scrubbing mud out of pillowcases and sheets.
Currents carried away a 60-foot tractor-trailer that lodged under the downtown Estime Bridge.