Deadly monster - Hurricane death toll nears 300 in hard-hit Haiti; flooding threatens US East Coast
Haitian officials yesterday dramatically raised the known death toll from Hurricane Matthew as they finally began to reach corners of the country that had been cut off by the rampaging storm.
Late yesterday, Haitian state officials announced that at least 280 persons had died, up from a previous count of 23. There were six other reported deaths across the Caribbean.
Officials were especially concerned about the department of Grand-Anse, at the northern tip of the peninsula, which was slammed by the category four hurricane, severing roads and communication links.
Officials with the Civil Protection Agency said 38 of the known deaths were reported in Grand-Anse.
"Devastation is everywhere," Pilus Enor, mayor of the town of Camp Perrin, told The Associated Press. "Every house has lost its roof. All the plantations have been destroyed. ... This is the first time we [are] see something like this."
People faced an immediate hunger crisis in Grand-Anse's largest city of JÈrÈmie, said Maarten Boute, chairman of telecoms Digicel Haiti, who flew to the city in a helicopter.
Matthew smashed concrete walls, flattened palm trees, and tore off roofs, forcing thousands of Haitians to flee. In the seaport of Les Cayes, many searched for clean water as they lugged mattresses and other belongings they were able to salvage.
"Nothing is going well," said Jardine Laguerre, a teacher. "The water took what little money we had. We are hungry."
Authorities and aid workers were just beginning to get a clear picture of what they fear is the country's biggest disaster in years.
The interior minister said food and water were urgently needed, noting that crops had been levelled, wells inundated by seawater, and some water-treatment facilities destroyed.
Before hitting Haiti, the storm was blamed for four deaths in the Dominican Republic, one in Colombia, and one in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
So far, there were no reports of casualties from better-equipped Cuba or from The Bahamas, which was being pummelled by the hurricane yesterday.
In the meantime, the United States East Coast was bracing for the category four hurricane to hit some time today. Flooding is the biggest fear, particularly the deadly storm surge churned up by such a massive and powerful hurricane.
The surge could threaten lives and property long before the eye of the hurricane nears shore, so the Miami-based National Hurricane Center has issued experimental storm surge watches and warnings for life-threatening flooding for some 500 miles of coastline from Boca Raton in South Florida all the way up into North Carolina.