Hurricane Matthew’s trail of destruction in Haiti stunned those emerging from the aftermath on Friday, with the number of dead soaring to 877, tens of thousands left homeless and outbreaks of cholera already claiming more lives.
Information trickled in from remote areas that were cut off by the storm and it became clear that at least 175 people died in villages clustered among the hills and on the coast of Haiti’s fertile western tip.
Rural clinics overflowed with patients whose wounds including broken bones had not been treated since the storm hit on Tuesday. Food was scarce and at least seven people died of cholera, likely because of flood water mixing with sewage.
The storm razed homes to their foundations. The corrugated metal roofs of those still standing were ripped off, the contents visible from above as if peering into doll’s houses.
At least three towns reported dozens of fatalities, including the hilly farming village of Chantal, whose mayor said 86 people were killed, mostly when trees crushed houses. He said 20 more people were missing.
In the town of Anse-d’Hainault, seven people died of cholera, a disease that did not exist in Haiti until U.N. peace keepers introduced it after a 2010 earthquake that killed some 200,000 people.
Another 17 cholera cases were reported in Chardonnieres on the south coast.
“Due to massive flooding and its impact on water and sanitation infrastructure, cholera cases are expected to surge after Hurricane Matthew and through the normal rainy season until the start of 2017,” the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a statement.
With fatalities mounting, various government agencies and committees differed on total deaths. A Reuters count of deaths reported by civil protection and local officials put the toll at 877.
Haiti’s central civil protection agency, which takes longer to collate numbers because it needs to visually confirm victims itself, said 271 people died as Matthew smashed through the western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain.
Some 61,500 people were in shelters, the agency said.
Matthew pushed the sea into fragile coastal villages, some of which are only now being contacted.
| CHANTAL, HAITI/PORT-AU-PRINCE :REUTERS