As Hurricane Matthew continued to lash Haiti on Tuesday, the howling winds and fierce floods washed out roads, toppled trees, damaged scores of homes and killed valuable livestock. With the storm still whipping the island, the human toll was still unknown.
The southern peninsula was hardest hit with eleven coastal communities reporting flooding. Authorities reported at least two deaths – one a fisherman, another an infirm man killed when his home imploded – while rising waters swallowed two popular beaches, Pointe Sable and Carpentier.
An assistant mayor in the southwest town of Les Cayes was holding a meeting about the storm when winds blew off the roof of the building. Over 9,000 people sought refuge in shelters in the middle of the night in the Nippes and Grand'Anse regions of the southern peninsula.
“The situation in the Nippes is truly catastrophic,” a Haitian senator, Nenel Cassy, told a local radio broadcast
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From Port-au-Prince in the west, to Les Cayes in the south to the far western reaches of Haiti in Jeremie, the category 4 storm was continuing to wreak havoc in this impoverished island nation. The center of the sprawling storm made landfall along the southwestern Tiburon peninsula at about 7 a.m., the first major hurricane to strike Haiti in 50 years.
Widespread flooding and dangerous mudslides are expected across the island where more than 55,000 still live in tents following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people.
This week’s natural disaster is also complicating presidential and legislative elections originally planned for Sunday; leaders were planning to meet Tuesday to discuss whether to postpone them.
With storm-struck regions isolated and communication spotty on Tuesday afternoon, authorities were still unable to offer a complete picture of the damage.
A bridge connecting the southern peninsula to Haiti's capital washed away, isolating the storm-ravaged region from the rest of the country. Another bridge that connects the capital to the north was still standing – but the river's water was so high that police were forced to shut down traffic.
Even the newly constructed Route 9, which connects the sprawling shantytown of Cite Soleil with a national road leading to the north, had turned into a dirty brown river.
“Since 1 a.m. we've been cutting fallen trees ... The city is flooded, and we have considerable damage,” said Marie Claudette Registre, an assistant mayor in Les Cayes. “The situation is truly difficult and complicated.”
Another elected official from the region said Matthew had destroyed the local Catholic church, a school and nightclub. The rivers in Anse-a-Veau, the main town, had “practically become one” with the sea, he said.