The number of people known to have been killed by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti is increasing by the day as coastal villages and towns began making contact with the outside world two days after being hit by the most dangerous Caribbean storm in nearly a decade.
By the end of Thursday the authorities in Haiti had put the figure at 339. Bodies started to appear late on Thursday as water receded in some places after the hurricane smashed concrete walls, flattened palm trees and tore roofs off homes, forcing thousands of Haitians to flee.
The Category 4 hurricane carried winds reaching 140 mph/220 kph flattened whole neighbourhoods. In the main city of Jeremie some 80 percent of buildings have been destroyed. Most of the casualties came in towns and fishing villages in Haiti’s southwest, with many killed by falling debris and swollen rivers
“All the money we had has been lost. Everything is lost. We’re lost, we don’t know (what to do). We could see the destruction and we asked for help. But no,” said Julio Desire, a resident of La Savane, as he surveyed his destroyed house. hose killed included a woman and her 6-year-old daughter who frantically abandoned their flimsy home and headed to a nearby church to seek shelter, says Ernst Ais, mayor of the town of Cavaillon.
“On the way to the church, the wind took them,” Ais told The Associated Press. At least 12 people died in his town, and death toll expected to increase.
The hurricane blasted the Bahamas on Thursday with winds of 220 kilometres an hour as it headed towards Florida, threatening the first direct hit on the United States in more than 10 years.
The US National Weather Service said the storm could be the most powerful to strike the northeast of the state in well over 100 years – although it is predicted to lose strength over the next two days. As Matthew approached and winds got stronger, more than two million people were urged to leave the coastal area.
Florida’s governor warned people that if they ventured onto the beaches, the storm would kill them. Daytona Beach was put under curfew from late on Thursday local time.
Airlines cancelled nearly 3,000 flights over two days, many of them in or out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale. People have been stocking up on food. Petrol stations announced they were out of supplies after cars waited in long queues to fill up.
An extremely rare event, Disney closed its Florida theme parks, at least until Friday.
The hurricane warning also extended up the coast through Georgia – where President Obama authorised the release of emergency federal aid – and into South Carolina.