HURRICANE HITS HAITI:
Extent of damage remains unknown in hard-hit Haiti
Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti with 145 mph winds Tuesday. At least nine deaths have been blamed on the storm during its weeklong march across the Caribbean.
PETIT-GOAVE, Haiti — Hurricane Matthew whipped at Cuba’s sparsely populated eastern tip Tuesday night, as it headed for a two-day run up the length of the Bahamas that may take it to the United States.
Twenty- f oot waves pounded the seafront promenade in the Cuban town of Baracoa. Powerful winds rattled the walls of homes and heavy rain caused some flooding. But state media said late Tuesday there were no immediate reports of serious damage
Forecasters said Matthew could hit Florida by Thursday night and push its way up the East Coast over the weekend.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the Category 4 hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and is moving north at 9 mph. The center predicts 8 to 12 inches of rainfall in eastern Cuba.
At least 11 deaths had been blamed on the powerful storm during its weeklong march across the Caribbean.
Earlier Tuesday, Matthew slammed into Haiti’s southwestern tip with howling 145 mph winds, knocking down trees and tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, while inundating neighborhoods in floodwaters and mud.
But with a key bridge washed out, impassable roads and phone communication cut off with Haiti’s hardest-hit area, there was no way to know how many people might be dead or injured.
Hours after Matthew made landfall on Haiti’s now-marooned southwestern peninsula, government leaders said they couldn’t fully gauge the impact.
“What we know is that many, many houses have been damaged. Some lost rooftops, and they’ll have to be replaced, while others were totally destroyed,” Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph said.
At least five deaths were blamed on the storm in Haiti, including a 26-yearold man who drowned trying to rescue a child who fell into a rushing river, authorities said. The child was saved. The mayor in flooded Petit Goave reported two people died there, including a woman who was killed by a falling electrical pole.
Four deaths were recorded in the neighboring Do- minican Republic and one each in Colombia and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The storm — at one point the most powerful hurricane in the region in nearly a decade — blew ashore around dawn in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, hitting a corner of Haiti where many people live in shacks of wood or concrete blocks.
Mourad Wahba, the U.N. secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Haiti, said much of the local population had been forced from their homes, at least 10,000 people were in shel- ters and hospitals were overflowing and running short of water.
Wahba’s statement called the hurricane’s destruction the “largest humanitarian event” in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of January 2010.
Matthew left the peninsula that runs along the southern coast of Haiti cut off from the rest of the country. A bridge in the flooded town of Petit Goave was destroyed, preventing any road travel to the hardhit southwest. Local radio said water was shoulder high in parts of the city of Les Cayes.
Milriste Nelson, 65, a farmer in Leogane, said his neighbors fled when the wind ripped the corrugated metal roof from their home. His own yard was strewn with the fruit he depends on for his livelihood.
“All the banana trees, all the mangos, everything is gone,” Nelson said as he boiled breadfruit over a charcoal fire in the gray morning light. “This country is going to fall deeper into misery.”
Residents flee Matthew’s wrath Tuesday in western Haiti. The storm’s death toll is 11.