Haiti begins three days of mourning

AFP NEWS: PORT-AU-PRINCE: Haiti began three days of mourning Sunday for victims of Hurricane Matthew as relief officials grappled with the unfolding devastation in the Caribbean country’s hard-hit south.

Matthew, meanwhile, lost its hurricane status, subsiding to a “post-tropical cyclone” after cutting a swath from Florida to South Carolina that left nine dead.

At 1200 GMT, the storm was still packing winds that gusted to hurricane strength as it moved away from the US coastline.

But attention was shifting back to Haiti, the Americas’ poorest country and one shattered by a 2010 earthquake and ravaged by a cholera epidemic.

People carry the coffin of Roberto Laguerre to bury him at the cemetery in Jeremie, Haiti, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. Roberto, 32, died when the wall of a church next door to his home fell during Hurricane Matthew. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
People carry the coffin of Roberto Laguerre to bury him at the cemetery in Jeremie, Haiti, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. Roberto, 32, died when the wall of a church next door to his home fell during Hurricane Matthew. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Matthew crashed ashore on Haiti’s southern coast on Tuesday as a monster Category 4 storm, packing 145 mile (230 kilometre) winds.

Aerial footage from the hardest-hit towns in southern Haiti showed a ruined landscape of metal shanties with roofs blown away, downed trees everywhere and mud from overflowing rivers covering the ground.

Civil defense officials put the death toll at 336, although some officials said it topped 400.

People walk on a street next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People walk on a street next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Interim President Jocelerme Privert declared three days of national mourning for the dead.

As the death toll climbed, pledges of aid flooded in, with the United States announcing it was sending a Navy ship, the USS Mesa Verde, whose 300 Marines will add to the 250 personnel and nine helicopters already ordered to deploy to Haiti.

France announced it was sending 60 troops, with 32 tonnes of humanitarian supplies and water purification equipment.

California-based charity International Relief Teams said it was donating $7 million in medical supplies with international organizations MAP International and Hope for Haiti.

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