Hurricane Matthew: Category Four storm pounds Haiti

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One of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent years has hit Haiti, bringing 145mph (230km/h) winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surges.

Hurricane Matthew, a Category Four storm, made landfall at the south-western tip at about 11:00 GMT.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Haiti was “getting everything a major hurricane can throw at them”.

Reports from the southern coast spoke of communities under water and buildings stripped of roofs.

Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, director of the country’s Civil Protection Agency, told Associated Press: “It’s much too early to know how bad things are but we do know there are a lot of houses that have been destroyed or damaged in the south.”

One resident too ill to leave their home was killed when waves struck in the town of Port Salut.

Haiti’s Interim President Jocelerme Privert said earlier that some people at sea or who had not “respected alerts” had died, but he gave no figures.

Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries and many of its residents live in wooden or corrugated steel shacks in areas prone to flooding. Matthew is expected to bring up to 40in (102cm) of rain to some parts as it moves north at about 15km/h.

A map showing Hurricane Arthur's path

Social media footage from the southern coastal town of Les Cayes showed palm trees being bent sideways and buildings with roofs sheared off buildings.

American journalist Jacqueline Charles told the BBC from the capital, Port-au-Prince, that reports from Les Cayes spoke of people walking in water shoulder high, with relief workers saying that other coastal communities were also under water.

 

Fonie Pierre, director of Catholic Relief Services for Les Cayes, told AP: “Many people are now asking for help, but it’s too late because there is no way to go evacuate them.”

The mayor of Les Cayes, Jean Gabriel Fortune, posted tweets that included video showing damage in the Vernet area.

A major road was swamped in Les Anglais, while the mayor of Tiburon, Remiza Denize, spoke of large waves hitting the town.

“Everyone is trying to find a safe place to protect themselves, the situation is very difficult.”

Fear of thefts

Haitian officials say that about 1,300 emergency shelters have been built, enough to accommodate 340,000 people. Both airports in Haiti are closed.

 

Civil protection workers ask residents to evacuate their homes in HaitiImage copyrightAP
Image captionHaitian authorities tried to persuade people to evacuate their homes
A couple look over Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Image captionMany Haitians live in flimsy huts vulnerable to flooding. The sign reads “house for sale”
A man poses for a picture on a wall next to the sea ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti
Image captionLes Cayes, before the hurricane struck with full force
Map

But some Haitians have refused to go to shelters, fearful of having their possessions stolen.

One local in Port-au-Prince, however, said the community would unite in the face of the storm’s danger.

“We are communicating amongst ourselves thanks to our own means. We will tell the people how the situation is. If things are bad then we will come together.”

Authorities had urged people to stock up on food and water and secure their homes.

People stand on the coast watching the surf produced by Hurricane Matthew, on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica
Image captionJamaica too has been feeling the effects of Hurricane Matthew
People wait in a shelter ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Guantanamo, Cuba
Image captionParts of Cuba are also on alert

An NHC statement said: “On the forecast track, the eye of Matthew will move near eastern Cuba later [on Tuesday], and move near or over portions of the south-eastern and central Bahamas [on Tuesday night] and Wednesday, and approach the north-western Bahamas on Wednesday night.”

About 13,000 people were evacuated from high-risk areas in neighbouring Dominican Republic, which is also expected to get battered by rains and winds, according to the country’s civil defence chief.

Heavy rain and winds have already hit parts of Jamaica, with floodwaters blocking roads in the capital Kingston.

A hurricane alert is in place for six eastern Cuban provinces and residents are being moved from low-lying areas.

Some 700 spouses and children of US service members have been flown out of the Guantanamo Bay base, which is just 80km from where the storm could make landfall.

It is also predicted to hit the US east coast later in the week. Florida and parts of North Carolina have declared states of emergency.

Hurricane Matthew is the region’s most powerful since Felix in 2007.

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