City 'cut off'

More than 20 of the deaths in Haiti were in the northern city of Gonaives, which has been almost entirely cut off by floodwater, civil protection department spokesman Abel Nazaire said.

Haiti's government has been hard-pressed to help people stranded in Gonaives and rescue convoys have been blocked by lakes that formed over roads.

The Gonaives area, where about 160,000 people live, accounted for most of the 2,000 victims of Tropical Storm Jeanne in 2004.

Some residents said the current flooding was at least as bad, and criticised the government for failing to implement safety measures in the past four years.

'Great panic'

"It is a great movement of panic in the city," Bien-Aime said.

Businesses were closed, both because of flooding and for fear of looting, and supplies were running short, he said.

People in water up to their knees shouted to peacekeepers to give them drinking water, and women on balconies waved empty pots and spoons.

At least 5,000 people in Les Cayes were in shelters, said Jean-Renand Valiere, a co-ordinator for the civil protection department.

The US embassy in Port-au-Prince declared a disaster situation, freeing $100,000 in emergency aid, spokeswoman Mari Tolliver said.

She said hygiene kits, plastic sheeting and water jugs for up to 5,000 families are expected to be sent from Miami.