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Hurricane Matthew: Haiti dead reach 800 as south awaits aid

The south-western town of Jeremie suffered the full force of the storm


The UN has warned it could take days for the full impact of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti to emerge, as the death toll soars to more than 800 dead.
The death toll has doubled, and may rise, as rescue teams gain access to southern areas cut off by the storm.

The World Food Programme’s Carlos Veloso says some of the hard-hit towns can only be reached by air or sea.

Many of the deaths in Haiti were in the south-western coast, which suffered the full force of the hurricane this week.

Category Three Matthew, with sustained winds of 120mph (193km/h), is currently battering the coastline of the US state of Florida but it is not yet clear if it will make landfall.

At 11:00 local time (15:00 GMT) Matthew was hugging the Florida coast, about 35 miles east of Daytona Beach and moving north-west at about 13mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

Rescue efforts are under way to assess the destruction left in the wake of the most powerful Caribbean storm in a decade.

Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency on Friday doubled the death toll from the hurricane from 400 to more than 800.

A definitive number is taking time to obtain because of the intensity of the damage to remote areas that are inaccessible because of flood water.

At least one major town in the south – Jeremie – has been 80% destroyed, with aerial footage showing the scale of destruction with hundreds of flattened houses.

Information on the number of dead is starting to trickle in from remote areas

Destroyed buildings and trees with belongings strewn over the ground in the town of Jeremie, Haiti on 6 October 2016Image copyrightAFP

The town of Jeremie was among the worst hit

Damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, HaitiImage copyrightGOOGLE, REUTERS

Three other towns in the south are reporting dozens of fatalities, according to Reuters news agency. The mayor of the village of Chantal told the news agency that 86 people had died and 20 more were missing.

Civil Protection Agency official Saint-Victor Jeune said his team had found another 82 bodies in the mountainous outskirts of Jeremie. But they were unable to register these with the Haitian authorities because of poor communications, he said speaking to Associated Press news agency.

The storm passed directly through the Tiburon peninsula – encompassing Haiti’s entire southern coast – driving the sea inland and flattening homes with winds of up to 230km/h (145mph) and torrential rain.

Next four or five days’

Government and UN officials estimate that some 350,000 people are in need of assistance.

“This is a situation changing all the time,” the World Food Programme’s Haiti director, Mr Veloso, said.

“I think that for the next four or five days, maybe only in five days, we will have a more clear picture of the impact and the death toll.”

Non-governmental organisations say communication with the areas worst affected has been hampered by lack of phone coverage and downed power lines.

The US is sending its USS Mesa Verde navy ship to assist with rescue efforts, as well as nine military helicopters to help deliver food and water to the hardest-hit areas.

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