Haitian President Réne Préval makes international plea

Roads are washed out, towns are covered in mud and school children still can't go to class after four successive hurricanes, Haitian President René Préval said Tuesday in an appeal for more local and international help for his storm-ravaged nation.

As Préval scrambles to rebuild infrastructure critical to getting Haiti back on track,he told The Miami Herald editorial board Tuesday that he has another key mission: finding a way to transport thousands of portable classrooms donated by local school districts.

Haiti was hit by four back-to-back storms this summer causing widespread destruction that dumped mud and water on entire towns. Tens of thousands of children are still out of class because their schools were either damaged or being used as shelters for storm victims.

Broward County Schools offered 600 portable classrooms last week and other districts began following suit.

But Préval said he still hasn't found donors to transport and help install the portables. He used the Miami visit to float the idea that the Pentagon's Florida-based U.S. Southern Command could do it. But no formal request has been made, Préval said.

''You know when there are no longer any dead bodies on the streets, people tend to forget,'' he said. ``Attention has shifted to the elections and the subprime crisis. These things are important to you, but we ask that you not forget us.''

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