CHANTAL, Haiti/COCOA BEACH, Florida, Oct 7, (RTRS): Hurricane Matthew killed more than 800 people and left tens of thousands homeless in its rampage through Haiti earlier this week before it lashed Florida on Friday with rain and howling winds and rolled northward up the US Atlantic coast.
The number of fatalities in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, surged to at least 842 on Friday as in-formation trickled in from remote areas previously cut off by the storm, according to a Reuters tally of death tolls given by officials.
Matthew, the first major hurricane that could hit the United States head on in more than a decade, triggered mass evacuations along the coast from Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina. Southern Florida escaped the brunt of the storm overnight, but US President Barack Obama and other officials urged people not to get complacent in the face of a storm that could be the most severe to strike northeast Florida in more than 100 years. “I just want to emphasize to everybody that this is still a really dangerous hurricane, that the potential for storm surge, loss of life and severe property damage exists,” Obama told reporters after a briefing with emergency management officials. “People continue to need to follow the instructions of their local officials over the next 24, 48, 72 hours.”
Matthew had smashed through the tip of Haiti’s western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. Some 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said, after the storm pushed the sea into fragile coastal villages, some of which were only now being contacted. At least 175 people died in villages clustered among the hills and coast of Haiti’s fertile western tip.
At least three towns reported dozens of fatalities, including the farming village of Chantal, where the mayor said 86 people perished, mostly when trees crushed houses. He said 20 others were missing. “A tree fell on the house and flattened it, the entire house fell on us. I couldn’t get out,” said driver Jean-Pierre Jean- Donald, 27, who had been married for only a year.