Saturday 25 February 2017

Over 800 dead from Hurricane Matthew in Haiti as Florida coast hit with howling storms

* Death toll rises to at least 842 in Haiti
* Obama warns of storm surge threat
* Mass evacuations in four U.S. states
* Jacksonville faces flood risk

Joseph Guyler Delva and Scott Malone

The roof of a gas lays collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Nassau, Bahamas, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
The roof of a gas lays collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Nassau, Bahamas, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
Rain batters homes as the eye of Hurricane Matthew passes Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Rich Poslusny removes debris from the road in front of his house after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Curtains flutter in the wind after a window was blown out at the LaPlaya Resort & Suites after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Homeowner Joe Lovece surveys the damage to the kitchen at the back of his oceanfront home after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Ormond Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Homeowner Joe Lovece stands on what had been the back patio of his oceanfront home after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Ormond Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Homeowner Joe Lovece surveys the damage to the kitchen at the back of his oceanfront home after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Ormond Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
An official vehicle navigates debris as it passes along Highway A1A after it was partial washed away by Hurricane Matthew in Flagler Beach, Florida. Photo: AP
A fallen tree is seen outside a house in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Saint Anne church lays totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A religious statue lays broken in the rubble of the Saint Anne church, destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A girl lugs buckets of drinking water after the passing of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Traffic stacks up on I-75 North fleeing the coast and Hurricane Matthew on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, near McDonough, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Residents and vehicles avoid a downed tree and power cable along a flooded roadway in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Nassau, Bahamas, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
Traffic stacks up on I-75 North fleeing the coast and Hurricane Matthew on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, near McDonough, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Residents sleep in a hallway at a school used as a shelter while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A couple of pedestrians walk down a street as an outer rain band of Hurricane Matthew passes over Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Phelan Ebenhack
Family members, from left, Briana Jeunice, 7, Vernea Jones, 30, Greg Jones III, 18-motnhs Greg Jones Sr., 36, and Zahava Alexander, 7, settle into the Red Cross shelter at the Samuel S. Gaines Academy building in Fort Pierce Fla., Thursday Oct. 6, 2016, as Hurricane Matthew approaches Florida's east coast (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
A man and a woman walk on the beach as waves, wind and start ahead of Hurricane Matthew Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Jacksonville Beach , Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
This GOES East satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Matthew moving northwest of Cuba towards the Atlantic coast of southern Florida, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016.(NOAA via AP)
The first outer bands of rain from Hurricane Matthew pass over downtown Orlando, Fla., Thursday evening, Oct. 6, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Palm trees sway in high gusts of wind, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Vero Beach, Fla. Hurricane Matthew continues to make a path for Florida's east coast from the Bahamas. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Residents prepare a mattress at a school used as a shelter while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
The body of a man who perished during Hurricane Matthew lies on a piece of wood as survivors prepare to place his body in a coffin, in Cavaillon, Haiti. Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Girls hold hands as they help each other wade through a flooded street after the passing of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Saint Anne church lays totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Electronic devices stand near an office destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A statue's head lays in the rubble of the Saint Anne church destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Personal items lie scattered outside homes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
General view after Hurricane Matthew passes Petit Goave, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Destroyed houses and boats are seen in a village after Hurricane Matthew passes Corail, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Destroyed houses are seen in a village after Hurricane Matthew passes Corail, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Destroyed houses are seen in a village after Hurricane Matthew passes Corail, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People carry their belongings on the street after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Workers bury two bodies after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A woman carries a laundry basket in an area devastated by Hurricane Matthew in Cavaillon, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Destroyed houses are seen after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A street vendor sells food on the side of a road after Hurricane Matthew hit Les Cayes, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

Hurricane Matthew killed more than 800 people and left tens of thousands homeless in its rampage through Haiti before it lashed Florida with rain and howling winds.

The number of fatalities in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, surged to at least 842 on Friday as information trickled in from remote areas previously cut off by the storm, according to a Reuters tally of death tolls given by officials.

Saint Anne church lays totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Two days after the storm rampaged across the country's remote southwestern peninsula, authorities and aid workers still lack a clear picture of what they fear is the country's biggest disaster in years. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Saint Anne church lays totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Two days after the storm rampaged across the country's remote southwestern peninsula, authorities and aid workers still lack a clear picture of what they fear is the country's biggest disaster in years. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Matthew, the first major hurricane that could hit the United States head on in more than a decade, triggered mass evacuations along the coast from Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina.

Southern Florida escaped the brunt of the storm overnight, but U.S. President Barack Obama and other officials urged people not to get complacent in the face of a storm that could be the most severe to strike northeast Florida in more than 100 years.

A religious statue lays broken in the rubble of the Saint Anne church, destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Two days after the storm rampaged across the country's remote southwestern peninsula, authorities and aid workers still lack a clear picture of what they fear is the country's biggest disaster in years. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A religious statue lays broken in the rubble of the Saint Anne church, destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Two days after the storm rampaged across the country's remote southwestern peninsula, authorities and aid workers still lack a clear picture of what they fear is the country's biggest disaster in years. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

"I just want to emphasize to everybody that this is still a really dangerous hurricane, that the potential for storm surge, loss of life and severe property damage exists," Obama told reporters after a briefing with emergency management officials. "People continue to need to follow the instructions of their local officials over the next 24, 48, 72 hours."

Matthew had smashed through the tip of Haiti's western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. Some 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said, after the storm pushed the sea into fragile coastal villages, some of which were only now being contacted.

At least 175 people died in villages clustered among the hills and coast of Haiti's fertile western tip. At least three towns reported dozens of fatalities, including the farming village of Chantal, where the mayor said 86 people perished, mostly when trees crushed houses. He said 20 others were missing.

"A tree fell on the house and flattened it, the entire house fell on us. I couldn't get out," said driver Jean-Pierre Jean-Donald, 27, who had been married for only a year.

The roof of a gas lays collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Nassau, Bahamas, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
The roof of a gas lays collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Nassau, Bahamas, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
Rain batters homes as the eye of Hurricane Matthew passes Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Rich Poslusny removes debris from the road in front of his house after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Curtains flutter in the wind after a window was blown out at the LaPlaya Resort & Suites after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Homeowner Joe Lovece surveys the damage to the kitchen at the back of his oceanfront home after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Ormond Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Homeowner Joe Lovece stands on what had been the back patio of his oceanfront home after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Ormond Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Homeowner Joe Lovece surveys the damage to the kitchen at the back of his oceanfront home after the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed Ormond Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
An official vehicle navigates debris as it passes along Highway A1A after it was partial washed away by Hurricane Matthew in Flagler Beach, Florida. Photo: AP
A fallen tree is seen outside a house in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Saint Anne church lays totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A religious statue lays broken in the rubble of the Saint Anne church, destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A girl lugs buckets of drinking water after the passing of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Traffic stacks up on I-75 North fleeing the coast and Hurricane Matthew on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, near McDonough, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Residents and vehicles avoid a downed tree and power cable along a flooded roadway in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Nassau, Bahamas, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
Traffic stacks up on I-75 North fleeing the coast and Hurricane Matthew on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, near McDonough, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Residents sleep in a hallway at a school used as a shelter while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A couple of pedestrians walk down a street as an outer rain band of Hurricane Matthew passes over Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Phelan Ebenhack
Family members, from left, Briana Jeunice, 7, Vernea Jones, 30, Greg Jones III, 18-motnhs Greg Jones Sr., 36, and Zahava Alexander, 7, settle into the Red Cross shelter at the Samuel S. Gaines Academy building in Fort Pierce Fla., Thursday Oct. 6, 2016, as Hurricane Matthew approaches Florida's east coast (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
A man and a woman walk on the beach as waves, wind and start ahead of Hurricane Matthew Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Jacksonville Beach , Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
This GOES East satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Matthew moving northwest of Cuba towards the Atlantic coast of southern Florida, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016.(NOAA via AP)
The first outer bands of rain from Hurricane Matthew pass over downtown Orlando, Fla., Thursday evening, Oct. 6, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Palm trees sway in high gusts of wind, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Vero Beach, Fla. Hurricane Matthew continues to make a path for Florida's east coast from the Bahamas. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Residents prepare a mattress at a school used as a shelter while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
The body of a man who perished during Hurricane Matthew lies on a piece of wood as survivors prepare to place his body in a coffin, in Cavaillon, Haiti. Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Girls hold hands as they help each other wade through a flooded street after the passing of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Saint Anne church lays totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Electronic devices stand near an office destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A statue's head lays in the rubble of the Saint Anne church destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Personal items lie scattered outside homes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
General view after Hurricane Matthew passes Petit Goave, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Destroyed houses and boats are seen in a village after Hurricane Matthew passes Corail, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Destroyed houses are seen in a village after Hurricane Matthew passes Corail, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Destroyed houses are seen in a village after Hurricane Matthew passes Corail, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People carry their belongings on the street after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Workers bury two bodies after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A woman carries a laundry basket in an area devastated by Hurricane Matthew in Cavaillon, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Destroyed houses are seen after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A street vendor sells food on the side of a road after Hurricane Matthew hit Les Cayes, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

"People came to lift the rubble, and then we saw my wife who had died in the same spot," Jean-Donald said, his young daughter by his side, crying "Mommy."

Cellphone networks were down and roads were flooded by sea and river water in Haiti.

FLORIDA POWER CUTS

Matthew swiped Florida on Friday with winds of 120 miles per hour (195 kph).

People stand on the coast watching the surf produced by Hurricane Matthew, on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
People stand on the coast watching the surf produced by Hurricane Matthew, on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
Residents stand in a Church after been evacuate prior the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, in Tabarre, Haiti, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
People stand on the coast watching the surf produced by Hurricane Matthew, on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
People buy goods on the street while Hurricane Matthew approaches Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A couple enjoy the view while Hurricane Matthew approaches Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 3, 2016. The text reads, "House for sale". REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A general view of Kingston is seen while Hurricane Matthew approaches, in Jamaica October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A general view while Hurricane Matthew approaches Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Jailene Albian, 18 (L), takes care of her six month old son together with her cousin Malbel Negrada, 41, in a shelter at the University of Guantanamo ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Guantanamo, Cuba, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A woman protects herself from rain with an umbrella ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man poses for a picture on a wall next to the sea ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A boy walks along a pier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man films the sea with his cell phone next to an old pier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Three people protect themselves from rain with an umbrella as they ride a motorbike ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man takes pictures on an old pier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Two women protect themselves from rain with an umbrella ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man takes pictures on an old pier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Residents are seen along a pier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

The city of Jacksonville could face significant flooding, the state's governor, Rick Scott, said. The storm had cut power to some 600,000 households in Florida, he told a news conference.

At 11:00 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), Matthew's eye, or center, was brushing the northeast Florida coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was moving at around 12 mph (19 kph) on a path that would likely take it near or over the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia through Friday night and near or over the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.

No significant damage or injuries were reported in cities and towns in south Florida where the storm brought down trees and power lines, CNN and local media reported.

Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he was concerned that relatively light damage in the south of Florida so far could give people farther up the coast a false sense of security.

"People should not be looking at the damages they're seeing and saying this storm is not that bad," Fugate told NBC. People should also be aware the hurricane carried more than just ferocious winds, he said.

 

"The real danger still is storm surge, particularly in northern Florida and southern Georgia. These are very vulnerable areas. They've never seen this kind of damage potential since the late 1800s," Fugate said.

 

In Cape Canaveral, Florida, home to the country's main space launch site, the storm downed power lines and trees and destroyed billboards.

 

Matthew lessened in intensity on Thursday night and into Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, but was still a Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. Category 5 is the strongest.

 

The U.S. National Weather Service said the storm could be the most powerful to strike northeast Florida in 118 years. The last major hurricane, classified as a storm bearing sustained winds of more than 110 mph (177 kph), to make landfall on U.S. shores was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

 

Damage and potential casualties in the Bahamas were still unclear after Matthew passed near the capital, Nassau, on Thursday and then moved out over Grand Bahama Island.

 

The NHC's hurricane warning extended up the Atlantic coast from central Florida through Georgia and into North Carolina.

 

Some Floridians were resisting calls to evacuate.

 

In the historic city of St. Augustine just south of Jacksonville, about half of the 14,000 residents have refused to heed evacuation orders despite warnings of an eight-foot (2.4 meter) storm surge that could sink entire neighborhoods, Mayor Nancy Shaver said in a telephone interview from the area's emergency operations center.

 

Even as power started to dim and water to the city was shut off in St. Augustine, the oldest U.S. city and a major tourism attraction, residents, especially elderly and the working poor, refused to budge, she said.

 

"There's that whole inability to suspend disbelief that I think really affects people in a time like this," Shaver said.

 

In addition to those who simply did not believe the storm was a major threat, some of the city's residents lacked vehicles or other means to evacuate, said Shaver, who said she was now advising the people to hunker down in whatever shelter they could find.

 

Lack of means to move was one reason some people stayed in New Orleans before it was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm killed more than 1,800 people there and along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

 

As of Friday morning, about 22,000 people were in Florida shelters and more had moved inland or to the state's west coast, Scott said. Georgia and South Carolina had also opened dozens of shelters for evacuees.

 

South Carolina officials warned residents of potentially damaging flooding and storm surge once Matthew makes its way to the state.

 

"There is nothing safe about what's getting ready to happen," South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told a news conference.

Reuters

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