One person has died and another is missing as the Category 4 storm bears down on the Americas’ poorest nation. Towns and villages are braced for “catastrophic” floods and mudslides.
Winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour (139 miles per hour) threatened Haiti on Monday evening, as Matthew brought monstrous storm swells of up to 3.3 meters (11 feet) to the impoverished island, forecasters said.
Billed as the most menacing storm in nearly a decade, Matthew was feared to exacerbate the appalling conditions faced by thousands of Haitians following the country’s 2010 earthquake, where many residents still live in tents.
In the largest slum in the capital, Port-au-Prince, Mayor Frederic Hislain ordered 150,000 people to be bussed to safer places.
But many residents were reluctant to leave their homes due to fears their belongings would be stolen, officials said.
Ahead of Matthew’s arrival, a fisherman drowned on Friday and another went missing Sunday, both off the southern coast, civil protection officials said.
Authorities have also closed Haiti’s main airport to wait for the storm to pass.
Washington promises aid
With the hurricane just a few hours from making landfall, the US said it would provide $400,000 in aid to Haiti and Jamaica to help them pay for relief supplies.
Neighboring islands also prepared for the extreme weather, with flooding reported in some areas of Jamaica, while around 250,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Cuba.
Matthew is now forecast to reach the Bahamas on Tuesday and Florida by Thursday. But forecasters hope it will weaken as it crosses the ocean.
“It has the potential of being catastrophic,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the Miami-based hurricane center.
mm/cmk (AFP, Reuters)