CABARET, HAITI — In this tiny Haitian town flooded by Hurricane Ike, the grim reality set in Sunday morning as the bodies of a dozen children lay dead on a concrete slab.
Mothers wailed, fathers screamed, an entire town was shaken as they tried to count the dead — many of them children and old women swept up by the river. So far, 22 are believed to have died, but the number would likely rise.
A reporter, the only international journalist in the town north of Port-au-Prince, witnessed the horror.
''With the others we lost houses, we lost animals and we lost plantations. Never bodies,'' said Lisemene Ferry Raphael, 46, standing across from her dead 12-year-old god daughter.
There are bodies on almost every other corner inside the town, where two rivers and the torrential rain of Ike swallowed houses and plantations, and swept children and old women downstream.
Cabaret sits along Route 1 on the road to the city of Gonaives.
The heavy rains moved into the region at 2 a.m.
Within 20 minutes, water came barreling through the door of Franzt Samedi's home, where his 5-year-old adopted daughter, Tamesha Jean, lay asleep.
A 60-year-old cousin yanked the girl from her bed and tried running toward higher ground.
But he fell, and lost his hold of the girl, the fierce water pulling her away.
Samedi spent hours walking through the town, searching for his missing daughter.
He looked at the bank of the river, under fallen trees, everywhere.
But she was nowhere to be found.
Then, a neighbor spotted her — lying dead on a concrete slab near a motorcycle shop.
''I'm the one who she calls Papa. I'm the one who is responsible for her. If she were with me she would not have died,'' Samedi said.
Distraught, Samedi kneeled at his daughter's side.
He pulled off Tamesha's shirt and, with a bucket of Culligan drinking water and a sponge, he began wiping her lifeless body.
Then, as she was taken away in the back of a truck, he hollered, "I would have rather died.''