International desk – A powerful storm that pounded the Central America left at least 269 people killed and caused damage to property worth billions of dollars, according to media reports.
The Hurricane Matthew pounded the Bahamas on Thursday on its way to the United States, after leaving behind a humanitarian crisis in Haiti, reported the CNN.
It said quoting officials that at least 269 people have been killed so far in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The death toll is expected to rise.
Haiti, still recovering from the catastrophic 2010 earthquake which killed hundreds of thousands, was hit hardest with more than 264 people reported dead as of Thursday evening.
As the death toll rises and crucial infrastructure crumbles, thousands have been displaced.
Mourad Wahba, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Haiti, described Matthew as the “largest humanitarian event” since the earthquake.
Four people died in the Dominican Republic, the country’s government said. Authorities there did not provide details about how they died.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a teenage boy died in a landslide as he was cleaning a drain behind his house, the National Emergency Management Office said. He died Wednesday after storms from Matthew passed.
Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday but its devastating impact is only now coming to light.
At least 1,580 homes have been flooded in the country, and about 3,215 families have been affected by the severe storm, the country’s Civil Protection Agency said.
More than 300,000 people are in shelters across the country, the United Nations said.
Haitian pastor Louis St. Germain said the storm sheared a wall off his house and tore roofs off many buildings in the area.
“The river has overflowed all around us,” St. Germain said. “It’s terrible … a total disaster.”
Southern Haiti was hit especially hard, where winds of 125 mph (200 kph) destroyed homes, flooded villages and cut off the island from the rest of the country.
In the wake of the storm, the Electoral Commission postponed the country’s presidential election, which had been scheduled for Sunday. A new date has not been set.
Tim Callaghan, assistance response team leader for the US Agency for International Development in Haiti, said that much of the damage in Haiti’s hardest hit areas — the southwestern cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie — appeared to be structural, and not the result of heavy rainfall.
Dominique Fevry-Gilliand, a spokeswoman for Oxfam Canada, said up to 80% of homes in the most affected areas were destroyed. There was also extensive damage to crops along swaths of southern Haiti.
“Most likely, in the next couple of weeks and months, one of the things they will have to deal with in that region is hunger,” she said.
The powerful hurricane passed over the Bahamas capital, Nassau, on Thursday afternoon, with casualties and damage mostly unknown.
“One of the main roadways in front of Sandals (resort) has been blocked off by debris and fallen trees,” Nassau resident Denzil Sirra told CNN, adding his house had not been damaged.
“A lot of debris and fallen trees and damaged shrubs. No electricity right now. Still have running water.”
Officials said the hurricane caused flooding in southern and eastern coastal communities and structural damage to a number of resorts in Nassau.
Hundreds of people had the roofs blown off their homes as Hurricane Matthew swept across Cuba, the country’s state media reported.
Photos from the seaside town of Baracoa showed devastation in the severe storm’s wake.
No fatalities were reported as of Thursday evening as the seafront area of the town had been evacuated ahead of Matthew’s arrival.
The United Nations has offered support to Cuba in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, in coordination with the Cuban authorities, state media reported on Thursday.
Officials in the United States have taken steps to prepare for the storm’s arrival. Governors in four Southern states have declared states of emergency.
“I cannot emphasize enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. “Having a plan in place could mean the difference between life and death,” the official was quoted to have said by the CNN.