BELGRADE – The number of victims of Hurricane Matthew, which has wrought havoc in Haiti, neared 900 on Friday as reports from hard-to-access remote southwestern areas continued coming. A total of 350,000 Haitians require immediate assistance, the UN says.
The death toll from the Category 4 hurricane, which has shaken the Caribbean nation, has been climbing with scores of people still missing.
As of Friday, 870 people were reported killed in the calamity, Reuters reported, citing local officials.
The hurricane descended on southwest Haiti on Tuesday, with howling winds measuring 233 kilometers per hour (145 mph), bringing overwhelming floods, rooting out trees and demolishing houses as it swept through the country. At least 61,500 people have found temporary home in shelters, mainly the residents of coastal villages deluged by water. According to UNICEF, 80 percent of homes in the southern Haiti have been damaged.
While Haiti is reeling from the tragedy, medical officials fear an outbreak of cholera, with the first seven cases attributed to water contamination with sewage already registered. In 2010, when Haiti was stricken by a devastating earthquake that killed some 90,000 people and almost leveled the capital, Port-au-Prince, to the ground, an ensuing cholera outbreak killed over 9,000 people in Haiti alone, and spread to neighboring countries.
The western end of the Tiburon peninsula was first on the hurricane’s trail of destruction, having suffered the most.
The city of Jeremie, located in the Grand’Anse department also on Tiburon, was almost reduced to rubble, as 80 percent of the buildings in the city have been severely damaged or ripped apart by the storm.
“We have big problems here. And what I mean is that there are almost no houses left standing. Luckily we didn’t have the loss of lives, but we lost everything. Look, this was my small business that I completely lost. Everything is destroyed by rain,” Medelin Dorvil, a local resident, told RT’s video agency Ruptly.
“We don’t have food, or a hospital to get healthcare. I urge you to go visit the communal hospital, because we need medicines and doctors and other aid,” he said.
In the town of Chantal, 86 people fell victim to the natural disaster and another 20 are unaccounted for, Reuters cited the local mayor as saying.
With Haiti’s water supply and power system severely damaged, many areas are experiencing a shortage of fresh water and food. As result, some 350,000 people are in need of immediate help, according to the UN’s assessment.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) plans to dispatch 7.5 million pounds of food supplies for families left homeless by the storm. The organization forecast that farmers in heavily-stricken rural areas have lost some 80 percent of their crops, which makes the recovery for Haiti ever more challenging.
Haiti’s neighbor states have responded to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti by sending cargos with humanitarian aid. On Friday, Venezuela transferred 660 tons in supplies, including food, medicine, blankets as well as heavy machinery to help clear off the roads from debris, Nestor Reverol, Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace, told El Universal.
Mexico has also announced it is going to provide humanitarian aid to Haiti on Friday.
At the request of Haitian authorities, the European Union has allocated 255,000 euros intended to support the most severely affected victims of the hurricane.
Washington has started deploying troops to the island state, which are supposed to aid the relief efforts in coordination with USAID.
“At the end of the day, we should have [about] 250 personnel,” said Navy Rear Adm. Cedric Pringle, appointed commander of US Southern Command’s Joint Task Force Matthew on Friday, adding that the number of the servicemen will rise to 350.
After ramming through Haiti, the hurricane reached the US coast on Friday, knocking down trees and power lines in Florida. While the hurricane was downgraded to a level 2 on Friday, it still caused severe floods and power shutdown for more than 1 million Floridians, according to Governor Rick Scott.
At least one person died in the state due to the storm. A woman who was riding out the storm in a camper trailer died “when a tree fell due to high winds,” Putnam County officials said in a statement.