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Haitian elections "off to a stumbling start";
One would-be voter dead of asphixiation; another dead of a heart attack; Polls to extend hours

From Reuters this morning: Haiti election off to stumbling start

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Haiti's presidential election got off to a rocky start on Tuesday after repeated delays as thousands of people trekked to polling stations in the capital only to find them still closed.

At a large voting center outside the sprawling Cite Soleil slum, at least 5,000 people milled about but there were no ballots or other voting materials to be seen an hour after the polls were scheduled to open at 6 a.m. (1100 GMT).

At least seven other polling centers across the capital were closed, but a U.N. official said some had opened.

Cite Soleil residents walked by the thousands to voting centers outside the teeming seaside shantytown, many determined to return ex-President Rene Preval, a protege of the exiled Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to the National Palace.

A couple of days ago, I set up a CommunityWalk map for the Haiti elections was a way of organizing information in case things get weird. You, dear reader, can annotate this map and add your own information, including adding pictures, links to websites, audio or video, etc. Also, the CommunityWalk map is exportable as a Google Earth KML file which will retain these annotations. It's there should anyone want to use it.

Also, keep an eye on the Flickr photofeed for the tag "Haiti." (See also my post Earthquake in Tokyo, plus How to Document Human Rights Violations Using Flickr.)

UPDATE from AFP via Yahoo: Crowds storm voting centers in Haiti; one dead

A 65-year-old man died of asphyxiation on Tuesday as crowds rushed the gate of a voting center in the Petionville suburb of Port-au-Prince, Radio Caraibes reported.

At another voting center in the capital, a woman suffered burns as she fell over the hot exhaust of a police motorcycle as mobs stormed into the building which police desperately tried to keep closed until electoral officials completed preparations.

Anger mounted among the massive crowds that showed up early to vote but still faced closed gates two hours after the balloting officially started.

Similar situations were reported in other parts of the country.

Tension was particularly high around the notoriously violent Cite Soleil slum, where voters voiced their anger chanting "open up, open up."

Many voters around the country had to walk for hours to reach the voting centers.

UN troops in full combat gear were positioned in key areas of Haiti to prevent any violence during the elections held to replace Jean Bertrand Aristide who resigned the presidency and fled the country on February 29, 2004.

UPDATE from the Mail & Guardian in South Africa. One would-be voter dead of a heart attack: Crowds storm polling stations in Haiti, two dead

Voting got off to a rough start in volatile Haiti as angry mobs stormed voting centres that failed to open on time, with one person dying of a heart attack and another of asphyxia.

Several more people were injured or fainted as they were trampled or shoved by crowds that rushed voting centres.

Many voters rose well before dawn, walked for several hours only to wait in long lines to cast their ballot in the first election since former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the violence-wracked country two years ago.

There were no reports of violence overnight.

UPDATE from Associated Press:

Haiti extends hours of presidential vote
MICHAEL NORTON
Associated Press
Port-au-Prince — Polling stations opened late – or not at all – and scuffles broke out Tuesday as Haitians cast ballots in the first presidential election since a bloody revolt two years ago pushed this bloodied, impoverished nation toward total collapse.

Although polls were scheduled to open at 6 a.m. EST, some did not open until hours later. Because of the organizational problems, voting hours originally set to end at 4 p.m. EST were extended by at least two hours, Rosemond Pradel, the secretary-general of Haiti's nine-member Electoral Council, told the Associated Press.

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