Matthew slams Haiti - Storm takes aim at US East Coast
PETIT-GOAVE, Haiti (AP):
Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti's south-western tip with howling, 145mph winds yesterday, tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris.
At least nine deaths were blamed on the storm during its weeklong march across the Caribbean.
Forecasters said Matthew could hit Florida toward the end of the week and push its way up the East Coast on the weekend. The forecast triggered a rush by Americans to stock up on food, gasolene and other emergency supplies.
The dangerous Category Four 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.
It unloaded heavy rain as it swirled on toward a lightly populated part of Cuba and the Bahamas.
Damage in the hardest-hit part of Haiti appeared to be widespread, but because of spotty communications, blocked roads and washed-out bridges, the full extent was not immediately clear. Nor was the number of deaths.
The country's Civil Protection Agency said many homes were damaged or destroyed.
"It's the worst hurricane that I've seen during my life," said FidËle Nicolas, a civil-protection official in Nippes, just east of where Matthew came ashore. "It destroyed schools, roads, other structures."
At least three deaths were blamed on the storm in Haiti, including one person whose home was crushed by a tree in Port Salut and a 26-year-old man who drowned trying to rescue a child who had fallen into a rushing river, authorities said. The child was saved.
Four deaths were recorded in the neighbouring Dominican Republic and one each in Colombia and in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The storm left the peninsula that runs along the southern coast of Haiti cut off from the rest of the country. Many streets were impassable because of flooding, landslides or fallen trees. Local radio reported that the water was shoulder high in parts of the city of Les Cayes.
Milriste Nelson, a 65-year-old farmer in the town of Leogane, said his neighbours fled when the wind ripped the corrugated metal roof from their home. His own small yard was strewn with the fruit he depends on for his livelihood.
Haitian authorities had tried to evacuate people from the most vulnerable areas ahead of the storm, but many were reluctant to leave their homes. Some sought shelter only after the worst was already upon them.
Matthew was expected to bring 15 to 25 inches of rain, and up to 40 inches (100 centimetres) in isolated places, along with up to 10 feet (three metres) of storm surge and battering waves.
"They are getting everything a major hurricane can throw at them," said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with the US National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Matthew briefly reached the top classification, Category Five, as it moved across the Caribbean late last week, becoming the strongest hurricane in the region since Felix in 2007.
In the US, Florida Governor Rick Scott urged coastal residents to prepare for the possibility of a direct hit and line up three days' worth of food, water and medicine. The Red Cross put out a call for volunteers in South Carolina. And the White House said relief supplies were being moved to emergency staging areas in the Southeast.