Official: Haiti cholera deaths rise above 330 as hurricane approaches

The death toll from a cholera outbreak in Haiti has risen to more than 330, and officials believe Hurricane Tomas may worsen the situation as it approaches, a U.N. spokeswoman said Saturday.

The number of confirmed cholera cases has climbed to 4,764, with 337 deaths, said Imogen Wall, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti, citing information provided by the Haitian government. Those numbers represent the people that were able to make it to the hospital, she said.

Another 200 cases are suspected in the nation’s West Department, or province, she said.

U.N. peacekeepers said Thursday that preliminary tests on a suspected source of the cholera outbreak were negative.

The U.N. mission in Haiti is testing waste and sewage water at the back of a Nepalese military base that is part of the U.N. operations. The first tests showed no signs of cholera, officials said earlier this week. The mission said it “has taken very seriously the allegations that sewage water coming from latrines at the back of the Nepalese military base in Mirebalais could be the source of the cholera outbreak in Haiti.”

Suspicions about the Nepalese base arose from reports that water was collecting at the back of the base. It was believed to be overflow from the latrine or a septic tank.

U.N. engineers examined the base and concluded that the standing water was not from the latrine of septic tank, but from a soak pit that receives water from the kitchen and the shower area, the U.N mission said. “This soak pit is located three meters from the latrines, hence misleading passers-by into believing that the soaked ground close to latrines is caused by the overspill of human waste,” it said.

All human waste from the camp is collected in seven septic tanks that are emptied out and discharged in a local landfill as authorized by the local government, the United Nations said.

The agency also noted that all 710 Nepalese soldiers underwent medical tests, and tested negative for cholera, before deployment to Haiti earlier this month.

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