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Monday 11 December 2017

Deadly Hurricane Matthew claims its first victims as it storms through the Caribbean

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
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Hurricane Matthew has claimed its first victims, leaving one person dead another missing in Haiti as it storms through the Caribbean.

The most dangerous storm in a decade has resulted in more than 2,000 people being evacuated from their homes to temporary shelters.

Haitians living in vulnerable coastal shacks continued to frantically sought safe shelter as the strongest Caribbean storm in nine years, Hurricane Matthew, closed in on the southwestern peninsula, sending storm surges, wind and rain into seaside towns.

Matthew, a violent Category 4 storm packing 145 mile-per-hour (230 kph) winds, is due to pound the western tip of Haiti in the early hours of Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Hurricane Matthew (The Weather Channel)
Hurricane Matthew (The Weather Channel)

Already, late on Monday, the outer bands of the cyclone reached the area, flooding dozens of houses in the town of Les Anglais when the ocean rose, the local mayor said. In the town of Les Cayes on the southern coast, the wind bent trees and the power went out.

"We have gusts of wind hitting the whole area and the people have fled to a shelter," said Les Anglais mayor Jean-Claude Despierre. In Tiburon, another town nearby, the mayor said people who had been reluctant to leave their homes also fled when the sea rose.

People buy goods on the street while Hurricane Matthew approaches Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People buy goods on the street while Hurricane Matthew approaches Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

"Everyone is trying to find a safe place to protect themselves, the situation is very difficult," mayor Remiza Denize said, describing large waves hitting the town.

The storm is forecast to spread hurricane force winds and up to three feet of rain across denuded hills prone to flash floods and mudslides, threatening villages as well as shanty towns in the capital Port-au-Prince.

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
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

"This is the most vulnerable suburb in the area. Here people are going about organizing things, we know that the hurricane is coming," said Afou, a volunteer at a children's home made of tin sheeting on the rubbish-strewn seashore of Haiti's Cite Soleil slum in the capital.

"If things are bad then we will come together," said Afou, who only gave his first name. Later, civil protection authorities said 130 children were evacuated by bus from another orphanage in the slum to a high school in the capital.

The Mayor of Cite Soleil, Frederic Hislain, said 150,000 people whose homes were threatened needed to be bused to safer places, but accepted that many people would not want to leave. Poor Haitians are often loathe to leave home in the face of storms, fearing their few belongings will be stolen.

The cyclone comes at a bad time for Haiti, where tens of thousands of people still live in tents after a 2010 earthquake that killed upwards of 200,000 people. Cholera introduced by U.N. peacekeepers is expected to rise in the October rainy season, and the country was due to hold a long-delayed presidential election in five days time.

The office of Interim President Jocelerme Privert said there was no change to the election date.

On the north coast, some 300 detainees were transferred from their prison near the sea in the town of Jeremie, the interior ministry said.

Matthew is forecast to sweep over Cuba to the Bahamas on Tuesday and possibly reach Florida by Thursday as a major hurricane, though weaker than at present.

One of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history, it was about 100 miles (155 km) south of westernmost Haiti at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT) on Monday, the U.S. hurricane center said.

Crawling north at about 7 miles-per-hour (11 kph), the storm threatens to linger long enough for its winds and rain to cause great damage.

In Les Cayes about 150 people huddled without electricity or food in the town's largest shelter, a school.

"There is no food," said Erick Cange, 69 years old, a resident of the La Savanne neighborhood surrounding the school.

"Since yesterday we've had nothingWe must sleep on the floorEveryone is hungry."

The conditions in the shelter compared unfavorably with Haiti's neighbor Cuba, where authorities spent days organizing teams of volunteers to move residents to safety and secure property.

The storm is expected to make a direct hit later on Tuesday in the province of Guantanamo, the disputed home to a U.S. Naval base and military prison but also a small Cuban city.

"We are receiving people living in villages prone to flooding," said Alexis Iglesias, head of the evacuation committee at Guantanamo University which was being used as shelter.

"Food is guaranteed and we have a generator that will guarantee that the kitchen keeps on working in case of a power cut," he said, at the shelter, where some 400 people were staying.

Reuters

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