Left behind in the wake of Hurricane Matthew was a trail of destruction in Cuba and Haiti. Late yesterday, Matthew headed towards the Bahamas and the United States, having caused at least 11 reported deaths. The death toll is expected to rise in Haiti, where communications and infrastructure remain among the worst in the hemisphere. The UN representative in Haiti, Mourad Wahba, said that Matthew has caused the worst crisis in Haiti since the devastating 2010 hurricane. Catholic Relief officials have been quoted as saying that they are overwhelmed with appeals for aid
President Barack Obama cancelled a trip to Florida and will instead appear at the Federal Emergency Management Agency this afternoon to describe US relief efforts to the Caribbean nations affected. There are reports that pre-positioned aid packages are being readied to be sent to the affected areas, while response teams are already on the ground. The National Guard in the southeastern states of the US are being deployed.
The governors of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have declared a state of emergency in each of their states. Millions of coastal residents along the Atlantic seaboard have received stern official warnings to evacuate as the category 3 storm tracked north at 8 mph with 125-mph winds. A turn to the northwest is expected today, say meteorologists, while the storm moves inexorably towards the southeastern quadrant of the United States. At the very least, there are forecasts projecting an increasing probability that the storm will come very close to the eastern shore of Florida tomorrow and on October 7.
According to meteorological records, no known Atlantic storm has produced such powerful winds for such a prolonged period time as Matthew. Currently, the storm spans more than 700 miles and is producing hurricane winds that extend 40 miles from its eye and tropical storm winds extending some 160 miles outward.
In South Carolina, more than 1 million residents have been told to flee from a band along the coast to 100 miles inland. Florida, Georgia and North Carolina also ordered residents of coastal communities to evacuate. In Florida supermarkets, shelves were stripped of merchandise after residents stocked up on needed supplies.
The Bahamas are currently being battered by Matthew. A storm surge of up to 15 feet and 15 inches of rain are expected.Prime Minister Perry Christie said, "We're worried because we do not control nature," he said. Currently, a weather map on the website of the National Hurricane Center
in Miami shows that the eye of the storm will pass directly over the Bahamian archipelago within a few hours.
At least five deaths took place in hard-hit Haiti. Violent winds, storm surge, and widespread flooding have been reported. A vital bridge that links the southern peninsula to the rest of Haiti has been destroyed, thus piquing fears that the human and economic losses exacted by Matthew may be far greater than currently known. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, has also suffered significant losses. Yesterday, some 8500 persons were evacuated from 15 of the 32 provinces in the Dominican Republic. There are reports that at least 5 persons have died in the country. With thousands forced from their homes and potable water in short supply, relief agencies and media calculate that the storm has had catastrophic effects in Haiti.
In Cuba, authorities ordered the evacuation of the easternmost provinces of the island republic, while the US Navy ordered the evacuation of families and all non-essential personnel from the Guantanamo Bay facility on the other end of the island.
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