The number of deaths in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, soared to at least 877 on Friday as information trickled in from remote areas previously cut off by the storm, based on a Reuters tally of death tolls given by officials.
Matthew triggered mass evacuations along the U.S. coast from Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina.
U.S. President Barack Obama encouraged people not to be complacent and to heed safety directions.
“The possibility of storm surge, lack of life and severe property damage exists,” Obama told reporters after a briefing with emergency management officials about the most boisterous cyclone to affect the United States since Superstorm Sandy four years past.
Matthew smashed through Haiti’s western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mile-per-hour (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. Some 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said, after the storm pushed the sea into vulnerable coastal villages, some of which were only now being contacted.
While highlighting the misery of underdevelopment in Haiti, which can be still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake, the storm appeared certain to rekindle the debate about global warming and the long term danger posed by rising sea levels to low-lying cities and towns.
At least three towns in the hills and coast of the rich western point of Haiti reported dozens of people killed, for example, farming village of Chantal where the mayor said 86 people were killed, largely when houses were crushed by trees. He said 20 others were lost.
“A tree fell on the home and flattened it. The whole house fell on us. I couldn’t get out,” said driver Jean-Pierre Jean-Donald, 27, who’d been married for just a year.
“Folks came to lift the debris, and then we saw my wife who’d perished in exactly the same place,” Jean-Donald said, his young daughter by his side, weeping “Mommy.”
With cellphone networks down and roads flooded, assistance has been slow to reach hard-hit places in Haiti.
Food was scarce and at least seven people died of cholera, likely because of flood water mix with sewage.
The boat has heavy-lift helicopters, bulldozers, fresh water delivery vehicles and two surgical operating rooms.