HUR­RI­CANE HITS HAITI:

Ex­tent of dam­age re­mains un­known in hard-hit Haiti

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By David McFad­den

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.”

OR­LANDO BAR­RIA/EPA

Res­i­dents flee Matthew’s wrath Tues­day in west­ern Haiti. The storm’s death toll is 11.

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