Haiti in 3-day national mourning as aid gears up

Haiti has begun three days of national mourning for those killed by Hurricane Matthew, which devastated the south of the country, BBC has reported.

At least 1,000 people are believed to have died. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed and some 350,000 people need aid, the government said.

Cholera is a major fear, with several deaths reported, as are food supplies, given the destruction of crops.

Matthew went on to barrel up the south-eastern coast of the US, killing 10.

It caused extensive flooding, power cuts and damage to buildings in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

At 02:00 local time (06:00 GMT), the now Category 1 Matthew was about 30km (18 miles) off the coast of Cedar Island in North Carolina and heading north-east, further out to sea, at 16mph (25km/h), the National Hurricane Center said.

Matthew passed directly through Haiti’s Tiburon peninsula – encompassing Haiti’s entire southern coast – driving the sea inland and flattening homes with winds of up to 230km/h (145mph) and torrential rain.

The international aid response in Haiti was now “beginning to pick up”, according to Stephane Rolland, regional co-ordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC).

But the challenges remain immense, given the difficulties with infrastructure and reaching remote areas.

The official death toll remains at 336, but the government says this tally only includes fatalities confirmed by visits to villages. Many have not been reached due to collapsed roads and bridges.

The country’s Civil Protection Agency says that number will rise.

On Friday, civil protection officials told the BBC that 877 people had died.

Beth Carroll, of the aid agency Catholic Relief Services, said: “The three needs that we’ve identified for the immediate response are food, water and shelter. A lot of people are outside; a lot of people do not have access to clean drinking water.”

Cholera is a major worry. At least 13 people have died from the disease since the hurricane, as sewage and floodwaters mix.