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Several hurt in violent Haiti protests over cholera

by Staff Writers
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Nov 15, 2010
Violent protests flared in northern Haiti Monday against UN peacekeepers, leaving several people hurt, as residents demonstrated over a spreading cholera epidemic, officials and witnesses said.

The protests erupted in the northern city of Cap Haitien, some 274 kilometers (169 miles) north of the capital, where around 100 people have died in the cholera outbreak in recent days.

"People with bullet wounds have been taken to the Justinien hospital in the city. I don't know exactly how many people have been injured or how badly they are hurt," said Yves Jasmin, regional director of the Haitian health ministry.

"The situation is very difficult, and there is a lot of violence in the city. I am blocked in the city, and I can't get to the hospital, he added.

A local journalist said thousands of people had demonstrated "against the UN mission on the spot and the government's slowness in dealing with the spread of cholera in this town."

"The blue helmets fired tear gas, and we know that there were people hurt, but we don't know how they were injured or in what circumstances," said UN spokesman Vicenzo Pugliese.

Less than a month after the emergence of Haiti's first cholera outbreak in half a century, the confirmed number of fatalities is at 917 and rising by more than 50 a day on average.

Local residents have blamed the outbreak on Nepalese UN peacekeepers who they have claimed are carriers of the water-borne disease.

The demonstrators had come from several regions to call for UN peacekeepers to leave the Caribbean nation, accusing the government of "leaving the population to die."

Local radio correspondents in Cap Haitien said that about 10 people have been hurt in Monday's protests.

"We heard shots being fired, and witnesses said that shots were fired, and the injured were taken to local hospitals," said one journalist, contacted by telephone.

Schools were closed in Cap Haitien Monday as parents were refusing to send their children to class, fearing they may get sick.

Most of the deaths from the cholera epidemic have been in northern Haiti, with the disease not yet widespread in the capital of Port-au-Prince, badly damaged in a January quake which killed 250,000 people and left 1.3 homeless.

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