U.N. peacekeeping troops began handing out food and water to famished Haitians on Friday after the first shipload of aid sailed into a crumbling port on the outskirts of this flooded city, where tens of thousands are stranded in the wake of Tropical Storm Hanna.
Receding flood waters revealed more corpses in the stinking muck, bringing fears the death toll of 137 will rise. But on Friday, the focus was not on counting bodies, but on caring for survivors.
The rusty container ship Trois Rivieres, chartered by the U.N. World Food Program, arrived guarded by Argentine peacekeepers brandishing assault rifles.
It docked at a remote private port away from the city because the main port was too small.
Within hours, the U.N. began distributing high-energy biscuits and water to emergency shelters where 40,000 people were marooned and increasingly desperate. At an empty warehouse in the northern section of the city where floodwaters have receded, about 1,000 hungry and thirsty men and women, some cradling youngsters, pushed and shoved as Haitian civil protection authorities in orange T-shirts tried to get them in line. U.N. peacekeeping troops from Argentina stood by, shotguns and assault rifles at the ready.
Underscoring the desperation, people who had received food knocked cookies from the hands of others, then scrambled to retrieve them.
The troops delivered aid to some 2,000 people in two shelters before operations were suspended at dusk, considering it too dangerous to work in the city after dark.
More than 10,000 people have left Gonaives on foot, swimming and wading through floodwaters and heading for the next town about 45 miles to the south, said Daniel Rouzier, Haiti chairman of Food for the Poor.
With the skies finally clear Friday aid also began to trickle in by air.