Hur­ri­cane Matthew: Hun­dreds Dead in Haiti Storm Dis­as­ter

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

The death toll in Haiti as a re­sult of Hur­ri­cane Matthew - the most pow­er­ful Caribbean storm in a decade - has soared to more than 400, of­fi­cials say. Some 50 peo­ple were re­ported killed in the town of Roche-a-Bateau alone

The nearby city of Jeremie saw 80% of its build­ings lev­elled. In Sud prov­ince 30,000 homes were de­stroyed.

Se­na­tor Herve Four­cand from south­ern Haiti told AFP news agency that at least 400 peo­ple had died. Reuters news agency put the death toll at 478, quot­ing Haitian of­fi­cials, but this has not been in­de­pen­dently con­firmed.

Most of the deaths in Haiti were in towns and fish­ing vil­lages around the south­ern coast, with many killed by fall­ing trees, fly­ing de­bris and swollen rivers.

The storm passed di­rectly through the Tiburon penin­sula, driv­ing the sea in­land and flat­ten­ing homes with winds of up to 230km/h (145mph) and tor­ren­tial rain on Mon­day and Tues­day.

The col­lapse of an im­por­tant bridge on Tues­day has left the south-west largely cut off, with flood wa­ters con­tin­u­ing to ham­per res­cue ef­forts.

Non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions said phone cov­er­age and elec­tric­ity were down and peo­ple were run­ning out of food and wa­ter.

Les Cayes res­i­dent Jean Joseph de­scribed the scene in his town - one of the worst hit - as “com­plete dev­as­ta­tion”.

Across the coun­try, there were some 350,000 in need of as­sis­tance, ac­cord­ing to the UN Of­fice for the Co-or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs.

A spokesper­son for the Amer­i­can Red Cross, Suzy DeFran­cis, said the first pri­or­ity was to get phone net­works across the coun­try back up and run­ning. “We will bring in tech­nol­ogy to help do that,” she said.

She said aid agen­cies were most con­cerned about a surge in cholera cases, with the san­i­ta­tion sys­tem in Haiti al­ready over­whelmed.

Haiti - one of the world’s poor­est coun­tries - has never fully re­cov­ered from the 2010 earth­quake that killed thou­sands of peo­ple and the cholera epi­demic that fol­lowed.

The Red Cross has launched an emer­gency ap­peal for $6.9m (£5.6m) “to pro­vide med­i­cal, shel­ter, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion as­sis­tance to 50,000 peo­ple”.

The US is send­ing nine mil­i­tary he­li­copters to help de­liver food and wa­ter to the hard­est-hit ar­eas.

Four peo­ple also died in the storm in the neigh­bour­ing Do­mini­can Repub­lic on Tues­day.

Parts of south­ern Haiti re­main iso­lated af­ter the col­lapse of a bridge at Petit-Goave on Tues­day.

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