Af­ter bat­ter­ing Haiti, Hur­ri­cane Matthew hits the Ba­hamas

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - By David McFad­den As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Ben Fox in Mi­ami; Evens Sanon in Haiti; Ra­mon Espinosa in Bara­coa, Cuba; and Joshua Re­plogle in the Ba­hamas con­trib­uted to this re­port.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI >> Res­cue work­ers in Haiti strug­gled to reach cut­off towns and learn the full ex­tent of the death and de­struc­tion caused by Hur­ri­cane Matthew as the storm be­gan bat­ter­ing the Ba­hamas on Wed­nes­day and trig­gered large-scale evac­u­a­tions along the U.S. East Coast.

At least 11 deaths were blamed on the pow­er­ful storm dur­ing its week­long march across the Caribbean, five of them in Haiti. But with a key bridge washed out, roads im­pass­able and phone com­mu­ni­ca­tions down, the western tip of Haiti was iso­lated and there was no full ac­count­ing of the dead and in­jured in Matthew’s wake.

Af­ter mov­ing past Haiti, Matthew rolled across a cor­ner of Cuba and then be­gan pound­ing the south­ern Ba­hamas with winds of 120 mph (195 kph) and heavy rain on a course ex­pected to take it near the cap­i­tal city of Nas­sau.

Fore­cast­ers said the storm could hit Florida — or come dan­ger­ously close — late Thurs­day or early Fri­day and then scrape the East Coast all the way up to the Caroli­nas over the week­end. Matthew could be­come the first ma­jor hur­ri­cane to blow ashore in the U.S. since Wilma slashed across Florida in 2005.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple along the lower East Coast were urged to evac­u­ate their homes.

“If you’re able to go early, leave now,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned.

On Tues­day, Matthew swept across a re­mote area of Haiti with 145 mph (230 kph) winds, wreck­ing homes and swamp­ing roads. But govern­ment lead­ers in the poor­est coun­try in the Western Hemi­sphere said they weren’t close to fully gaug­ing the ef­fect in the flood-prone na­tion where less pow­er­ful storms have killed thou­sands.

“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.

Mourad Wahba, the U.N. sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s deputy spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Haiti, said at least 10,000 peo­ple were in shel­ters and hos­pi­tals were over­flow­ing. He called the hur­ri­cane the big­gest hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Haiti since the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake of 2010.

The Haitian govern­ment post­poned Sun­day’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, in part be­cause many of the schools and churches that are used as polling sta­tions are serv­ing as shel­ters. A new date for the vote was not an­nounced.

Aid groups with rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the area said it was clear that many homes and crops were de­stroyed but that the ex­tent was im­pos­si­ble to gauge, es­pe­cially in the Grand Anse area on the south­ern tip, which took a di­rect hit.

“We have peo­ple in Grand Anse that we can­not reach,” Hervil Cheru­bin, coun­try direc­tor for Heifer In­ter­na­tional, a non­profit that works with local farm­ers.

While the cap­i­tal, Por­tau-Prince, was es­sen­tially back to nor­mal, there was still wide­spread flood­ing across south­ern Haiti.

“There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing we can do to pro­tect our­selves here,” said mo­tor­cy­cle taxi driver Joseph Paul as he watched tor­rents of brown wa­ter wash over a road and del­uge his low-lying neigh­bor­hood in Leogane. “This storm was too much for us, and we are at its mercy.”

The U.S. govern­ment said it sent ex­perts to Haiti to as­sess the dam­age and is pro­vid­ing $1.5 mil­lion in food and other dis­as­ter as­sis­tance.

The hur­ri­cane also blew across the sparsely pop­u­lated tip of Cuba overnight, de­stroy­ing dozens of homes in Cuba’s east­ern­most city, Bara­coa, and dam­ag­ing hun­dreds of oth­ers.

Peo­ple stood amid the rub­ble of their homes, weep­ing, hug­ging or star­ing stunned into the dis­tance. Oth­ers scoured piles of con­crete and re­bar for any pos­ses­sions they could re­cover. Some car­ried cook­ing pots and rolled-up mat­tresses through the streets on their way to a shel­ter.

“I’ve never seen some­thing like this in my life,” said Elva Perez, a 55-yearold homemaker, as she stood by what re­mained of her home. “For more than 200 years, here in this house, noth­ing like this has ever hap­pened.”

At the U.S. naval base at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba, the storm knocked down trees and caused road flood­ing but no in­juries or ma­jor dam­age, said Julie Ri­p­ley, a spokes­woman.

At 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) Matthew was cen­tered about 70 miles (115 kilo­me­ters) south of Long Is­land in the eastern Ba­hamas. It was head­ing north­west at 12 mph (19 kph).

Along the East Coast, peo­ple boarded up beach homes, some schools closed and res­i­dents be­gan clear­ing out.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley an­nounced plans to evac­u­ate a quar­ter-mil­lion peo­ple from the coast, not count­ing tourists, start­ing Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. Florida’s Broward County, which in­cludes Fort Laud­erdale, asked some 150,000 res­i­dents in low-lying ar­eas or mo­bile homes to move to safety.

RA­MON ESPINOSA - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRES

A woman cries amid the rub­ble of her home, de­stroyed by Hur­ri­cane Matthew in Bara­coa, Cuba, Wed­nes­day. The hur­ri­cane rolled across the sparsely pop­u­lated tip of Cuba overnight, de­stroy­ing dozens of homes in Cuba’s east­ern­most city, Bara­coa, leav­ing hun­dreds of oth­ers dam­aged.

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