Friday, October 07, 2016

Hundreds dead in Haiti's worst disaster since 2010 earthquake

The death toll in Haiti from Hurricane Matthew climbed on Friday to more than 800, making it the worst natural disaster since a 2010 earthquake claimed roughly 300,000 lives.

The latest fatalities figure came from a Haitian government source, who told EFE that 820 people had been confirmed dead.

The magnitude of the disaster was only beginning to become apparent on Friday, three days after Matthew made landfall on Haiti's southern tip as a Category 4 hurricane, because many areas of the hardest-hit southern region were still cut off and without electricity or telephone service.

Emergency management officials were continuing to make their way to severely affected communities, while dozens of injured people have begun arriving in the capital, Port-au-Prince, from the southwestern city of Dame Marie.

Most of the deaths have occurred in Les Cayes, Dame Marie and Jeremie, which are located in the southwestern provinces of Sud and Grand'Anse, the latter of which is only accessible by plane.

The Haitian government has said the situation in the nation's southern region is catastrophic and appealed for international aid.

"The destruction is very considerable," interim President Jocerlerme Privert said.

He added that several countries have offered assistance to Haiti, which still has not recovered from the 2010 earthquake that killed around 300,000 people, injured a similar number and left 1.5 million homeless.

Non-government organizations on Friday expressed concern about a potential worsening of Haiti's humanitarian crisis in the wake of the hurricane.

In a statement, Oxfam stressed the urgent need to guarantee supplies of safe water and hygiene kits to protect against the spread of diseases such as cholera, an epidemic that affected the country after the 2010 earthquake.

The Pan American Health Organization, for its part, said it was already preparing for a possible surge in cholera cases, which have already totaled more than 28,500 in Haiti thus far this year.

UNICEF said Friday that 500,000 children live in the areas of Haiti hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew, while the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that in some affected areas up to 80 percent of this year's harvest has been lost.

Several countries on Friday announced plans for immediate aid deliveries to the poorest country in the Americas, including France and Spain.

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