Hurricane Matthew: Hundreds dead in Haiti storm disaster

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The BBC reports that the death toll in Haiti as a result of Hurricane Matthew has soared to 283. Some 50 people were reported to have died in the southern town of Roche-a-Bateau alone. The peninsula’s main city, Jeremie, saw 80% of its buildings levelled. In Sud province 30,000 homes were destroyed. The hurricane has again been upgraded to a Category Four storm, the second highest hurricane classification, as it heads for the US state of Florida. The new death toll was given by Haitian government officials.

Hurricane Matthew – the most powerful Caribbean storm in nearly a decade – has pounded the Bahamas after slicing through Haiti and Cuba. Trees and power lines were reportedly down in the Bahamas but no fatalities were reported. Most of the fatalities in Haiti were in towns and fishing villages around the southern coast, with many killed by falling trees, flying debris and swollen rivers.

The storm passed directly through the Tiburon peninsula, driving the sea inland and flattening homes with winds of up to 230km/h (145mph) and torrential rain on Monday and Tuesday. The collapse of an important bridge on Tuesday had left the south-west largely cut off.

Non-governmental organisations said phone coverage and electricity were down and people were running out of food and water. The BBC’s Tony Brown in south-western Haiti said he had seen people trying to cope with the mass destruction on their own, trying to rebuild from the rubble but without the help of the army or police.

Les Cayes resident Jean Joseph described the scene in his town – one of the worst-hit – as “complete devastation”. [. . .]

Across the country, there were some 350,000 in need of assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

A spokesperson for the American Red Cross, Suzy DeFrancis, said the first priority was to get phone networks across the country back up and running. “We will bring in technology to help do that,” she said. “We also have warehouses with relief supplies that we will be distributing. Some of the needs that families may have are kitchen kits so they can cook meals, any kind of hygiene kits and then we are most worried about cholera, so we will be helping to distribute aqua tabs to purify the water.” [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-37582009

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