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Hundreds Dead in Haiti After Hurricane Matthew

The death toll in Haiti as a result of Hurricane Matthew – the most powerful Caribbean storm in a decade – has soared to more than 400, officials say.

Some 50 people were reported killed in the town of Roche-a-Bateau alone

The nearby city of Jeremie saw 80% of its buildings levelled. In Sud province 30,000 homes were destroyed.

Senator Herve Fourcand from southern Haiti told AFP news agency that at least 400 people had died. Reuters news agency put the death toll at 478, quoting Haitian officials, but this has not been independently confirmed.

After slicing through Haiti and Cuba, Hurricane Matthew pounded the Bahamas on Thursday but no fatalities were reported there.

Most of the deaths 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, with flood waters continuing to hamper rescue efforts.

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.

She said aid agencies were most concerned about a surge in cholera cases, with the sanitation system in Haiti already overwhelmed.

Haiti – one of the world’s poorest countries – has never fully recovered from the 2010 earthquake that killed thousands of people and the cholera epidemic that followed.

The Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal for $6.9m (£5.6m) “to provide medical, shelter, water and sanitation assistance to 50,000 people”.

The US is sending nine military helicopters to help deliver food and water to the hardest-hit areas.

Four people also died in the storm in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

Why Haiti is vulnerable to disasters

More than half of Haiti’s city-dwellers live in overcrowded shantytowns that take the full force of any earthquake, hurricane, or disease outbreak. An ongoing cholera epidemic, triggered by the arrival of UN troops after the 2010 earthquake, has killed thousands of people.

Massive deforestation has also led to soil erosion, leaving hillside huts and poorly-built houses in the capital, Port-au-Prince, dangerously exposed. In rural areas, topsoil used for agriculture is often washed away.

Political instability and corruption have been a factor. Without effective government for decades, Haiti currently ranks 163rd out of the 188 countries on the UN Human Development Index. It spends little storm defences. 

Source: BBC

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