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Hurricane Matthew kills more than 500 in Haiti, 350,000 people in need of relief

Florida's governor pleaded with people to evacuate from the state?s east coast. Photograph: (Getty)

Florida, United States Oct 06, 2016, 06.40 PM (IST)

As the death toll in the wake of Hurricane Matthew rose to 572 on Friday (October 7), the United Nations was quoted as saying by Reuters that more than 350,000 people are in need of serious relief.


Debris littered the streets of Jeremie, with houses reduced to rubble and cinderblock walls broken by falling trees. Residents spent Thursday (October 6), moving rubble from their homes and businesses.


Jeremie resident Medelin Dorvil described a dire scene.


"We have big problems here. And what I mean is that there are almost no houses left standing. Luckily we didn't have loss of lives but we lost everything. Look, this was my small business that I completely lost. Everything is destroyed by rain. We don't have food, nor a hospital to get a healthcare," he said in video provided by the United Nations mission to Haiti.


Another resident said he and his neighbors had lost everything in Hurricane Matthew.


The entire southern part of the country was inundated by torrential rains and buffeted by violent winds that lasted for hours as Matthew made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday.


The country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the poorest in the world, is particularly vulnerable to storm damage due to extensive deforestation that has left many of its hillsides bare.


The storm hit the country on Tuesday with wind speed 145 mph, flattening trees and houses. 


US President Barack Obama also declared a state of emergency in Georgia, which will be eligible along with states of Florida and South Carolina for federal hurricane relief. 


A federal state of emergency has also been declared by US president Barack Obama in Florida as Hurricane Matthew's powerful winds began to be felt along the state's southeast coast, international news agency AFP reported. 


Authorising the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts, Obama has ordered federal aid to supplement state and local efforts to deal with the devastating storm. 


Meanwhile, some three million people on the US southeast coast faced an urgent evacuation order on Thursday as the Hurricane Matthew bore down for a direct hit on Floria.


“Extremely dangerous, life-threatening weather conditions are forecast in the next 24 hours,” the National Weather Service warned early Thursday afternoon, the New York Times reported. “Airborne debris lofted by extreme winds will be capable of breaching structures, unprotected windows and vehicles.”


Florida’s governor pleaded with people on Thursday to evacuate from the state’s east coast, according to multiple reports. 


“There are no excuses,” Mr. Scott said in Tallahassee, the state capital. “You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.” 


The governor’s office was quoted as saying by New York Times that more than 1.5 million people were in evacuation zones, and that "tolls had been suspended on the Florida Turnpike and other crucial routes". 


On Thursday, the storm also slammed the Bahamas, according to reports. Weather forecasters working out of Nassau airport had to flee for their lives, AFP reported. 


The National Hurricane Center has called Matthew the strongest in the region in decades.


According to AFP news agency, Haiti had not been hit head on by a Category Four storm in 52 years. The country's presidential election, scheduled for Sunday, has also been postponed. 


The United Nations office for coordinating humanitarian affairs said half of Haiti's population of 11 million was expected to be affected.


At least 350,000 people in Haiti, where thousands have lived in tents since the massive earthquake in 2010, need immediate assistance, the UN said.


In Cuba, where some 1.3 million people were evacuated, there were no reported fatalities but four cities in the east were cut off because roads were blocked by large chunks of rock hurled by the storm.


(WION with inputs from agencies) 

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