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Haiti gets much-needed hurricane relief supplies

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  • International aid groups struggle to reach thousands after Tropical Storm Hanna
  • Hurricane Ike also could hit Haiti this weekend
  • Poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has been hit by 3 storms in a month
  • Drinking water in Haiti is contaminated by bodies, Haitian volunteer says
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From Taylor Gandossy
CNN
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(CNN) -- A ship carrying U.N. relief supplies, including food and water, arrived Friday in the hurricane-ravaged Haitian city of Gonaives, an official with the United Nations' World Food Programme said.

The ship sailed from the capital, Port-au-Prince, carrying 19 tons of high-energy biscuits, 50,000 bottles of water, water purification tablets and other supplies, Myrta Kaulard said.

An ambulance, two trucks, a four-wheel drive vehicle and a small speedboat to be used in rescues were also aboard the ship, she said.

"Distributions are ongoing at present," she said, speaking by phone from the capital. "We are also airlifting biscuits now to Gonaives."

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has endured three storms -- Hanna, Gustav and Fay -- over the past month. The last storm, Hanna, killed at least 137 people when it passed Tuesday over Gonaives and lingered nearby for days.

It left water more than 4 meters deep in some places in the city, according to Abel Nazaire, Haiti's assistant coordinator of Risk and Disaster Management. Video Watch as flooding overwhelms Haitians »

Much of the water remained Friday in Gonaives, and the city was unreachable by car or truck, as roads were flooded and bridges had collapsed, Kaulard said.

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"We need to send food and water and primary needs," said Jean-Pierre Gueatou, executive director of the Haitian Red Cross. "The other things, they will come later."

People trudged through city streets that were covered in murky brown water thigh-deep and higher in some places. Some residents camped out on their roofs, their clothing and blankets hung over the sides of buildings.

"Drinking water is the biggest problem," said Joel Trimble, co-founder of Haiti for Christ Ministries. "That water that everybody's been wading in -- now for days -- is contaminated with dead carcasses of animals, and cadavers of people."

"We remember the last time this happened," a man told The Associated Press, according to the agency's translation. "It was the same situation. A lot of aid money was given for nothing. They did nothing with that money. If that money had been invested in this town, we would not be in this situation today."

"People really have lost a lot of things," Kaulard said. "They are asking for clothes, they are asking for water, they are asking for food.

"The situation is very tense, people are exhausted."

Kaulard said World Food Programme officials hope to send another ship laden with similar supplies on Saturday, before Hurricane Ike, a Category 3 storm in the central Atlantic, approaches.

Ike is predicted to sweep more than 100 miles north of Hispaniola -- the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

"We really hope that the current trajectory ... is maintained," Kaulard said.

On Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard delivered enough hygiene kits, plastic sheeting and water jugs for 2,000 people in Gonaives, according to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. With those supplies, and others expected to arrive Saturday in Gonaives on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, the United States expects to help about 10,000 people, the embassy said.

In addition, the USS Kearsarge is expected to arrive Monday in Haiti from Colombia to support relief efforts, the embassy said, though it noted that Hurricane Ike could delay its arrival.

U.S. ambassadors in Jamaica and Haiti have authorized $100,000 in emergency relief for each country, and the United States is providing $50,000 worth for the Dominican Republic, said State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood in Washington.

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The United States offered to send humanitarian relief and a disaster assistance team to Cuba, but has received no response from the Cuban government, the State Department said.

"The situation in Gonaives is catastrophic," Daniel Rouzier, Haiti chairman of Food for the Poor, wrote in an e-mail, according to the AP. "We, just like the rest of the victims ... have limited mobility. You can't float a boat, drive a truck or fly anything to the victims."

CNN's Charley Keyes contributed to this report

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