Two dead as deadly Hur­ri­cane Matthew slams ashore in Haiti Thou­sands flee the path of the storm

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Hur­ri­cane Matthew made land­fall in south­west­ern Haiti early yes­ter­day, trig­ger­ing ma­jor floods and forc­ing thou­sands to flee the path of the deadly storm that has al­ready claimed two lives in the poor­est coun­try in the Amer­i­cas.

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said Matthew made land­fall as an “ex­tremely dan­ger­ous” Cat­e­gory Four storm near the town of Les Anglais at around 7 am (1100 GMT) pack­ing max­i­mum sus­tained winds of around 145 miles per hour. The most men­ac­ing storm in nearly a decade, Matthew be­gan bat­ter­ing Haiti late Mon­day with strong winds and ris­ing sea lev­els, be­fore slam­ming ashore some 250 miles west of the cap­i­tal Port-au-Prince. Even be­fore mak­ing land­fall along the south­ern edge of a jagged penin­sula on His­pan­iola, the di­vided is­land that Haiti shares with the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, Matthew was blamed for at least two deaths in Haiti.

One of the vic­tims was a sickly woman who died late Mon­day in the coastal town of PortSa­lut when she was un­able to leave her house to re­ceive med­i­cal care, au­thor­i­ties said. On Fri­day, a fish­er­man died af­ter his boat sank in south­ern Haiti. An­other in­di­vid­ual went miss­ing and is feared to have died in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances on Sun­day. Fore­casts pre­dict Matthew will dump 38 to 63 cen­time­ters (15 to 25 inches) of rain over south­ern Haiti with up to a me­ter pos­si­ble in iso­lated ar­eas.

In Les Anglais, ris­ing wa­ters swamped the na­tional high­way, and the hur­ri­cane-slowly creep­ing north­ward at around nine miles per hour — has caused ex­ten­sive flood­ing in and around the flimsy homes and build­ings in Haiti’s south­west. Fore­casts said land­slides and flash­flood­ing are likely be­fore Matthew moves on to Cuba, the Ba­hamas and other parts of the Caribbean.

More than 6,400 peo­ple have been evac­u­ated to tem­po­rary shel­ters in Haiti, al­though civil pro­tec­tion forces have strug­gled with lo­cals who re­fused to leave some of the most vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas. They in­cluded the cap­i­tal’s ex­tremely im­pov­er­ished, densely pop­u­lated neigh­bor­hoods, in­clud­ing Cite Soleil-where some 100,000 of the to­tal 500,000 res­i­dents face se­ri­ous flood­ing risks-and the sea­side Cite L’Eter­nel.

Work­ers used heavy ma­chin­ery to empty canals in cen­tral Port-au-Prince that have been blocked by trash for months, al­though they were un­likely to com­plete the job in time. Edgar Ce­lestin, a spokesman for Haiti’s civil pro­tec­tion agency told AFP that the hur­ri­cane was re­spon­si­ble for overnight flood­ing in 11 com­munes. Part of the sea­port city of Les Cayes was un­der­wa­ter af­ter be­ing del­uged by re­cent rains, which now are also be­ing blamed for mud­slides.

“We have al­ready recorded a land­slide be­tween Les Cayes and Tiburon” in Haiti’s Sud depart­ment, Marie-Alta Jean-Bap­tiste, di­rec­tor of Haiti’s civil pro­tec­tion told AFP. Haiti is home to al­most 11 mil­lion peo­ple, many liv­ing in frag­ile hous­ing. Thou­sands are still liv­ing in tents in Haiti af­ter the coun­try’s mas­sive earth­quake in 2010. Ero­sion is es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous be­cause of high moun­tains and a lack of trees and bushes in ar­eas where they have been cut for fuel.

Cuba evac­u­ates 316,000

In­terim Pres­i­dent Jo­cel­erme Privert in an ad­dress to the na­tion urged Haitians on Mon­day to do what they could to get out of the path of the storm. “My coun­try­men, do not be stub­born, do not say ‘God is good’ and will take care of you,” he said. “The dan­ger­ous ar­eas will be evac­u­ated,” he added. “We have no in­ter­est in risk­ing your lives.”

In nearby Jamaica, of­fi­cials said the army and mil­i­tary re­serves were called up to help deal with hur­ri­cane dam­age. Buses were also sent to flood-prone ar­eas to move res­i­dents to shel­ters. US em­bassies in Haiti and Jamaica closed for a sec­ond day yes­ter­day due to the storm. Cuba, mean­while, evac­u­ated some 316,000 peo­ple from the east of the is­land where Matthew was ex­pected to hit later yes­ter­day.

“No one likes to leave their homes, but the sea is go­ing to rise and that is very dan­ger­ous,” said Pe­dro Gon­za­lez, a re­tired chef who had to leave a fish­ing islet where he lives off the city of San­ti­ago. At the US naval base in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba-lo­cated along Matthew’s pre­dicted path-of­fi­cials is­sued a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der for all non-es­sen­tial per­son­nel and fam­ily mem­bers. Imates in the base’s prison are safe, US mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said. Fore­cast­ers pre­dict the hur­ri­cane could hit the US East Coast around mid­week. Florida and parts of North Carolina have de­clared states of emer­gency. —AFP

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