Hurricane Matthew kills nearly 1,000 in Haiti, 18 in US

An American woman, Cherie Monroe, stands in the sunroom of her home in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Port Orange, on Sunday. PHOTO: REUTERS.

Hurricane Matthew neared the end of its weeklong charge through Caribbean islands and along the United States Atlantic coast after killing nearly 1,000 people, most of them in Haiti, the Voice of America said.

The storm has killed 18 people in the United States as it hit Florida and then travelled up the East Coast, having already left nearly 900 people dead in its wake in Haiti, according to ABC News.

Matthew unloaded more than a foot of rain on North Carolina, its final stop, on Saturday night and flooded homes and businesses as far as 100 miles inland.

It finally moved out to sea around 5am on Sunday and was centered about 60 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, sustaining hurricane-force winds of 75 mph.

President Obama signed major disaster declarations for Florida and Georgia on Sunday morning.

The storm also flattened communities and wrecked agriculture in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas.

Gov Pat McCrory revealed on Sunday morning that seven people had been killed during the storm, the highest death toll of any state.

Mail Online said six people have also been killed in Florida, four deaths – all caused by falling trees – were reported in Georgia, and one person has been killed in South Carolina.

McCrory said one person was killed after their vehicle hydroplaned in heavy rain and two others died after their car became submerged in the flood waters.

Another resident drowned after they drove past a barricade and were swept away into a creek.

As of late Sunday there are also four people missing in the state’s Cumberland County, where more than 562 water rescues were also conducted, according to The Weather Channel.

Haiti has declared three days of national mourning, President Jocelerme Privet’s office said, “in solidarity” with the parents and friends of the victims of Matthew and residents of the region who are suffering from the hurricane’s impact.

Matthew is moving northeastward over North Carolina’s Outer Banks with maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour – half as strong as they were a week ago.

Serious flooding was reported in many areas along a 950-kilometer stretch of the U.S. East Coast from Florida north to North Carolina. U.S. President Barack Obama declared states of emergency in four states, where at least 10 deaths were reported due to the storm.

Matthew was the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. coast in nearly a decade, and one of the longest-lasting major hurricanes on record, but damage to property was much less than had been predicted.

The hurricane was at its most powerful when it ravaged the Caribbean nearly a week ago with winds of 235 kilometers per hour. Although more than 900 deaths have been reported in Haiti, many areas of that impoverished country have not yet been thoroughly surveyed.

Haiti says 1.5 million people have been affected the the hurricane and 350,000 are in need of immediate assistance as most are homeless.

The U.S. military has been deploying aid to Haiti by air and sea; food and medicine as well as equipment, including heavy-lift helicopters, bulldozers, water-delivery vehicles and mobile operating rooms.

UNICEF says the conditions in Haiti are “perfect breeding grounds for waterborne diseases.” Marc Vincent, UNICEF’s representative in Haiti says, “Every day that goes by increases the threat of cholera.”

As Matthew passed over Haiti it also raked the eastern tip of Cuba. Few reports of casualties or damage have emerged since Tuesday, but the island nation is expected to need massive quantities of relief supplies.

The Dominican Republic, which lies on the eastern half of Hispaniola Island, bordering Haiti, also felt Hurricane Matthew’s power. The storm later coursed through the Bahamas before traveling north along the U.S. East Coast, slowly weakening but remaining just offshore until it finally made landfall in South Carolina Saturday.

The catastrophic damage this week in Haiti was made worse because the impoverished country is still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2010. Thousands of people who have been living in flimsy shelters since the earthquake saw those washed away by the hurricane, which also destroyed a bridge that is the only link between a large portion of southern Haiti and the rest of the country.

Officials have warned the list of casualties will likely climb – perhaps significantly – as rescuers finally manage to reach remote villages.

Video images from Haiti showed entire landscapes of metal shanties that lost their roofs in the winds and driving rains, along with downed trees and fields of mud from overflowing rivers.

CARE Haiti director Jean-Michel Vigreux said just one Haitian town with a population of 30,000, Jeremie, “is completely destroyed.”

The International Red Cross has issued an emergency appeal for $6.9 billion in relief aid for Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Residents and aid workers in eastern Cuba were still assessing storm damage. There were no immediate reports of casualties, but workers from a Roman Catholic charity organization spent nearly 16 hours trying to reach Baracoa, a community of 82,000 residents. Locals said the trip from Guantanamo to Baracoa normally takes just over two hours.

The Miami Herald reported that one local church official found Baracoa with ruined roads, damaged communications and neighborhoods near the coast reduced to rubble.