Hurricane Matthew pummels Haiti and Cuba, evacuations ordered in US

Hurricane Matthew pummels Haiti and Cuba, evacuations ordered in US

Hurricane Matthew pummels Haiti and Cuba, evacuations ordered in US

AFP Photo

Hurricane Matthew pummeled Haiti and moved on to Cuba after killing nine people, unleashing floods and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee the Caribbean’s worst storm in nearly a decade.

Far to the north, the first evacuations were ordered in the United States as coastal residents prepared to escape the approaching monster storm, expected off the East Coast later this week.

The death toll stood at nine - five in Haiti and four in the Dominican Republic -- was certain to rise as dangerous Matthew bruised its way north.

The full scope of the damage, both human and material, remained unclear. Civil protection officials in Haiti said they were struggling to communicate with the south after Matthew’s furious wind and rain blew down telephone lines.

A partial assessment of the damage, which excluded the department of Grande Anse, which was in the direct eye of the storm, indicated that 14,500 people have been displaced and 1,855 homes flooded. Those numbers were expected to increase once communication is reestablished with the area.

The collapse of a bridge cut off the only road linking Port-au-Prince to the peninsula that makes up southern Haiti.

“It’s going to be difficult to find an alternative route,” civil protection spokesman Edgar Celestin told AFP.

One person has been reported missing and 10 injured so far across Haiti, officials said.

Next in line, Cuba was hit late in the afternoon on its eastern tip.

Americans girded for a taste of nature’s fury.

Florida, South Carolina and parts of North Carolina have declared states of emergency, and South Carolina said it would start evacuating 1.1 million people from its coast starting Oct. 5 and try to get them at least 160 kilometers inland. Georgia declared a state of emergency in 13 counties.

“It’s not going to be a fast evacuation. It could take up to several hours,” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said. “If you can leave early, do that.” 

Matthew made landfall in Haiti shortly after daybreak as an “extremely dangerous” Category Four storm - the maximum is five - near the southwestern town of Les Anglais, packing top winds of around 230 kilometers per hour, the NHC said.

It marked the first time in 52 years that a Category Four storm made landfall in Haiti.