Hurricane Matthew leaves hundreds dead in Haiti

The number of people killed by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti continues to rise, mainly in villages that are making contact with the outside world days after the storm ripped through the impoverished nation's picturesque western peninsula.

Tens of thousands of people still in shelters after violent storm

Haiti hit hard by Hurricane Matthew

6 years ago
Duration 1:01
Town of Jeremie virtually 'wiped off the map'

The number of people killed by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti continued to rise Friday, mainly in villages that are making contact with the outside world days after the storm ripped through the impoverished nation's picturesque western peninsula.

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 hurricane, according to a Reuters tally of death tolls given by officials.

"Several dozen" were killed in the coastal town of Les Anglais in Sud Department, said Louis Paul Raphael, the central government's representative in the region. Inland in nearby Chantal, the toll rose to 90 late in the evening, the town's mayor said.

The Interior Ministry, a mayor and other local officials confirmed the numbers across Haiti to Reuters, with many victims killed by falling trees, flying debris and swollen rivers when Matthew hit with 230 km/h winds on Tuesday.

Haiti's civil protection service said some 61,500 remain in shelters.

Most of the fatalities were in towns and fishing villages around the western end of Tiburon peninsula in the country's southwest, one of Haiti's most picturesque regions.

The storm passed directly through the peninsula, driving the sea inland and flattening homes on Monday and Tuesday.

Les Anglais was the first to be hit by Matthew and has been out of contact since then. Just before the storm hit, the mayor told Reuters people were fleeing their houses in panic as the sea surged into town.

A few kilometres south in Port-a-Piment village Mayor Jean-Raymond Pierre-Louis said 25 people died.

Farther south still, in the village of Roche-a-Bateau, 24 died.

In Grand Anse Department, also on the storm's destructive path but on the other side of the peninsula, 38 more lost their lives.

Along with the human devastation, the storm killed livestock.

In one public hospital in Les Cayes, a port town on the Tiburon peninsula, most doctors had not shown up to work since they took shelter as the storm hit. Food and water was scarce in shelters.

The devastation in Haiti prompted authorities to postpone a presidential election scheduled for Sunday.

Canada responds to devastation in Haiti

The Canadian Disaster Assessment Response Team deployed three Global Affairs experts and three experts from the Canadian Forces to advise on next steps for Haiti relief.

Girls hold hands as they help each other wade through a flooded street after the passing of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Thursday. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan said "the Canadian Armed Forces stand ready" to help as the situation evolves.

The province of Quebec pledged $100,000 in emergency aid to organizations working in Haiti.

"Several Quebec agencies are already working hard in very difficult circumstances, to help the affected populations and to meet their basic needs, which are considerable," said Minister of International Relations and Francophonie Christine St-Pierre.

"In response to this emergency, the government of Quebec wants to support the actions of these organizations on the ground so that the situation will improve as soon as possible."

In Montreal, Myriam Marotte, communications director for Quebec's Red Cross, appealed for donations. 

"Funds help us obtain what we really need," Marotte said, using the example of water purification equipment and emergency shelters.

"We have the structures in place to respond quickly and effectively, and funds help us provide that aid without delay."

People wade through a flooded street and next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passed Jeremie, Haiti, on Wednesday. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Preparing for possible cholera surge

Poverty, weak government and precarious living conditions for many of its citizens make Haiti particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.

In 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake wrecked the capital Port-au-Prince, killing upward of 200,000 people. In the earthquake's wake, UN peacekeepers inadvertently introduced cholera to the country, killing at least 9,000 and infecting hundreds of thousands more.

"We have nothing left to survive on, all the crops have gone, all fruit trees are down, I don't have a clue how this is going to be fixed," said Marc Soniel Noel, the deputy mayor of Chantal.

The Pan American Health Organization said on Thursday it was preparing for a possible cholera surge in Haiti after the hurricane because the flooding was likely to contaminate water supplies.

In the tiny Les Cayes airport, windows were blown out and the terminal roof was mostly missing although the landing strip was not heavily damaged.

"The runway is working. In the hours and days to come we can receive humanitarian flights," said Sergot Tilis, the information officer and runway agent for the airport.

Matthew is the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since Felix in 2007.

Four people were killed over the weekend in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

With files from CBC News