Hundreds dead in Haiti as Hurricane Matthew sweeps towards Florida


The number of people known to have been killed by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean is now running into the hundreds.

By the end of Thursday the authorities in Haiti had put the figure at 339.

The extent of the destruction in the island nation’s worst disaster since the huge earthquake in 2010 is beginning to become apparent.

The storm flattened whole neighbourhoods. In the main city of Jeremie some 80 percent of buildings have been destroyed.

Most of the casualties came in towns and villages in Haiti’s southwest.

“All the money we had has been lost. Everything is lost. We’re lost, we don’t know (what to do). We could see the destruction and we asked for help. But no,” said Julio Desire, a resident of La Savane, as he surveyed his destroyed house.

The hurricane blasted the Bahamas on Thursday with winds of 220 kilometres an hour as it headed towards Florida, threatening the first direct hit on the United States in more than 10 years.

The US National Weather Service said the storm could be the most powerful to strike the northeast of the state in well over 100 years – although it is predicted to lose strength over the next two days.

As Matthew approached and winds got stronger, more than two million people were urged to leave the coastal area.

Florida’s governor warned people that if they ventured onto the beaches, the storm would kill them. Daytona Beach was put under curfew from late on Thursday local time.

Airlines cancelled nearly 3,000 flights over two days, many of them in or out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

People have been stocking up on food. Petrol stations announced they were out of supplies after cars waited in long queues to fill up.

An extremely rare event, Disney closed its Florida theme parks, at least until Friday.

The hurricane warning also extended up the coast through Georgia – where President Obama authorised the release of emergency federal aid – and into South Carolina.



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