Haitians are suffering! Help is arriving but it is not enough!

Prenille Nord, 42, poses for a photograph with his children Darline and Kervins among the debris of their destroyed house after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti,

By Kami Klein

Over the past decade, Haitians have suffered more natural calamity than any people in the world. On January 12th, 2010 the Haitian people were devastated by a deadly 7.2 earthquake killing over 220,000, injuring 300,000 and leaving 1.5 million people homeless.  Following this tragedy, Haitians were cruelly struck with a cholera epidemic which killed another 3,597 people and sickened over 340,000 people.   

With a lot of hard work, farm lands were beginning to produce, banana crops had recovered, livestock was healthy and growing and while there was still a long way to go, the Haitian people kept on with their struggle to survive. Then, on October 4th, 2016, Hurricane Matthew arrived, and Haiti was slammed with 145 mph winds and torrential rains.  When it was over, almost a thousand people had lost their lives,  90% of the homes were heavily damaged or destroyed, entire communities gone, 80% of all crops blown away leaving farm lands looking like landfills filled with trash and debris, and leaving 1.4 million people in desperate need of emergency aid.  

According to a recent article in Washington Post, Matthew has left 800,000 Haitians in desperate need of food. Along the roads, starving children beg for something to eat. Homeless families sleep under trees. Emergency help is arriving, but there is not enough of it. The United Nations has raised just a third of the $120 million needed to cope with the emergency. Storm-hit areas have reported around 3,500 suspected cholera cases.

A boy drinks water as he receives treatment for cholera at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti,

A boy drinks water as he receives treatment for cholera at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

Haiti Country Director Hervil Cherubin, “Loss of crops, livestock, and housing will cause a real disaster in the coming months. People will not have food to eat or the ability to create income as there are no crops to sell. This will create a huge problem in rural Haiti if something is not done to help the agriculture in the next three months.”

The damage in Haiti is monumental, causing unrelenting hunger, no shelter, and no safe drinking water. Those that have gone to Haiti to offer assistance are begging for our help.

Morningside’s amazing friend, Gary Heavin, has been there on the ground and in the air, delivering food and supplies to places so devastated that it is impossible to get there by road! There are no overwhelming offers of support from the world and the media has basically gone silent. Recently, Pastor Jim Skyped with Gary on The Jim Bakker Show and he had this to say on the conditions he has seen with his own eyes:  

Jim, I have been here 12 days now.  And, it looks like Hiroshima.  I am calling this a hidden holocaust because no one knows about it.  There are 1.4 million people that are under tremendous stress right now and almost no help!  I am here with three of my aircrafts. We are flying in, food, water, and doctors. In two of the cities, my aircraft was the only evacuation for people that have been injured in this hurricane.  We have been flying men, women and children with severe injuries to get medical help. My aircraft is the only source of food for 4,000 people that are stranded on a mountaintop. Jim & Lori, thank you for the food that you sent!  That was the first food that 4,000 starving people received. We are the only source of food for these people!”

Gary Heavin is a man who tells it like it is. The desperation of the Haitian people has filled his heart. It is from your generosity that we were able to send with him Food Buckets, Extreme Water Bottles and Flashlights! But it is up to all of us, as God’s people, to do MORE!  Deuteronomy 15:11 “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’

Liface Luc, 66, poses for a photograph in his destroyed house after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 15, 2016. "I don't need to say nothing, my house explains everything. It's completely flat. I lost everything; my crops, my animals, so I have nothing left. It's like my two hands had been cut. What can I say? I'm at death's door," said Luc.

Liface Luc, 66, poses for a photograph in his destroyed house after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 15, 2016. “I don’t need to say nothing, my house explains everything. It’s completely flat. I lost everything; my crops, my animals, so I have nothing left. It’s like my two hands had been cut. What can I say? I’m at death’s door,” said Luc. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Because we have these connections in Haiti, we know that our food is reaching those that desperately need it!  If you would like to help please click here and visit our Help for Haiti page.  

We have so many blessings!  Please keep the aid workers and people of Haiti in your prayers!  

Is Haiti forgotten? Where is the media? They need our help!

Residents ask for food at the end of a food distribution after Hurricane Matthew in Saint Jean du Sud, Haiti,

By Kami Klein

A Picture. Hopefully for Haiti, it takes only one in this world of media, where the fight to grab the attention of the public shifts in seconds.  

Only a few weeks ago, as Hurricane Matthew made a direct hit on the poor country of Haiti, the news organizations were covering the devastation every hour and prayers were said around the world.  Now, there is an eerie silence in that same media for the Haitian people.

Over 90% of their homes are destroyed. All of their crops annihilated. Drinking water is slowly becoming poison.  There is no electricity and very little protection from the elements.  So many areas in Haiti are impossible to get to because of the damage.  Food is being airdropped but no one really knows the fate of these people shut off from medical help and the basic needs for life.  

Whether it is politically motivated or perhaps just the hunger for new stories to bring ratings in the media outlets, Haiti is already forgotten and the tragedy for these people  is only beginning.  

We will not forget the people of Haiti.

Thanks to Gary Heavin, founder and former CEO of the fitness chain Curves, producer and actor and a remarkable friend to this ministry, we are able to truly be of assistance. Gary has been on the ground and in the air helping Haiti.  He is one of the few that owns a cargo plane that can get to these remote places and has been tirelessly distributing the food and water filtration as well as solar flashlights and other necessities to these desperate people.  We KNOW that what we are sending is getting to those that really need it!   

We ask you to pray for Haiti and for those amazing people who are there in a great time of need!  We are also asking for your help!  It is through your donations that these emergency items for Haiti are possible. If you wish to help Haiti, please see the link below!   

 

Haiti Hurricane Relief

Hurricane Matthew closes schools for thousands of Haiti’s children

partially destroyed school in Haiti

By Makini Brice

LES CAYES, Haiti (Reuters) – As Haiti cleans up the destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew, which killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes, the storm has also disrupted the education of many school children in the country.

School has resumed for students in many parts of Haiti that escaped the worst of Matthew’s wrath, but an estimated 100,000 children are missing class after their schools were either reduced to rubble or converted to makeshift shelters.

In battered Les Cayes in southwest Haiti, many whose homes were blown away by Matthew remain holed up in Dumarsais Estime National School, meaning children were unable to resume class.

Bernadette Saint-Louis, a 38-year-old hawker of bananas and beans, said she came to the shelter with her four children as the storm approached.

Like her, many who lost everything to the hurricane had little if any money to send their children to school – and little option when nearby schools had been knocked down.

“Only God knows what I will do for them,” she said. “I have nothing to live on.”

While the capital, Port-au-Prince, sustained little lasting damage from the hurricane, the damage to schools along Haiti’s southern coast has raised questions about how to resume the school year in the area.

At least 300 schools in the region were destroyed or were being used as shelters, meaning over 100,000 children were missing class, UNICEF said.

Education in Haiti is a political hot-button issue ahead of a looming presidential election, which has been delayed again by the storm. Virtually every major presidential candidate has promised to expand access to schooling.

At the start of the school year in September, amid persistently high unemployment, inflation and stagnant economic growth, the cost of school fees, books and uniforms was a major topic in local media for weeks.

Interim President Jocelerme Privert cited the damage to schools in an interview on Tuesday. “We must find a way to make them functional,” he said.

That is also the hope of Haitian school director Jean-Emmanuel Pierre-Louis. Shortly after the storm passed over the area, he stood in the remains of his office in the Centre of Classical Training College of Port Salut.

The damage was severe. The private school, which had been built on the side of the mountain where teachers and students had views of green, rolling hills, no longer had a roof and chunks of its walls were now rubble scattered across the floor.

Pierre-Louis pointed to a periodic table of elements, all that was left of the chemistry lab. Files of some of the 350 students had been laid out to dry on surfaces under the sun.

Salvaged benches sat stacked outside. The remains of some classrooms were too precarious to venture into.

Pierre-Louis’ home was destroyed by the hurricane, as were those of family members and students.

“What will we do with the students if the state and the international community does not intervene?” he asked.

(Editing by Simon Gardner and Peter Cooney)

Like a nuclear bomb; cholera and destruction after hurricane in Haiti

Relatives and patients treated for cholera after Hurricane Matthew in the Hospital of Port-a-Piment, Haiti,

By Gabriel Stargardter

PORT-A-PIMENT, Haiti (Reuters) – Patients arrived every 10 or 15 minutes, brought on motorcycles by relatives with vomit-covered shoulders and hoisted up the stairs into southwest Haiti’s Port-a-Piment hospital, where they could rest their weak, cholera-sapped limbs.

Less than a week since Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, killing at least 1,000 people according to a tally of numbers from local officials, devastated corners of the country are facing a public health crisis as cholera gallops through rural communities lacking clean water, food and shelter.

Reuters visited the Port-a-Piment hospital early on Sunday morning, the first day southwestern Haiti’s main coastal road had become semi-navigable by car.

At that time, there were 39 cases of cholera, according to Missole Antoine, the hospital’s medical director. By the early afternoon, there were nearly 60, and four people had died of the waterborne illness.

“That number is going to rise,” said Antoine, as she rushed between patients laid out on the hospital floor.

Although there were 13 cases of cholera before Matthew hit, Antoine said the cases had risen drastically since the hurricane cut off the desperately poor region.

The hospital lacks an ambulance, or even a car, and Antoine said many new patients were coming from miles away, carried by family members on camp beds.

Inside the hospital, grim-faced parents cradled young children whose eyes had sunk back and were unable to prop up their own heads.

“I believe in the doctors, and also in God,” said 37-year-old Roosevelt Dume, holding the head of his son, Roodly, as he tried to remain upbeat.

RUBBLE

Out on the streets, the scene was also shocking. For miles on end, almost all the houses were reduced to little more than rubble and twisted metal. Colorful clothes were littered among the chaos.

The region’s banana crop was destroyed with vast fields of plantain flattened into a leafy mush. With neither government or foreign aid arriving quickly, people relied on felled coconuts for food and water.

The stench of death, be it human or animal, was everywhere.

In the village of Labei, near Port-a-Piment, locals said the river had washed down cadavers from villages upstream. With nobody coming to move the corpses, residents used planks of driftwood to push them down the river and into the sea.

Down by the shore, the corpse of one man lay blistering in the sun. A few hundred meters to his left in a roadside gully, three dead goats stewed in the toxic slime.

“It seems to me like a nuclear bomb went off,” said Paul Edouarzin, a United Nations Environmental Program employee based near Port-a-Piment.

“In terms of destruction – environmental and agricultural – I can tell you 2016 is worse than 2010,” he added, referring to the devastating 2010 earthquake from which Haiti has yet to recover.

Damaged houses are seen after Hurricane Matthew passes in Jeremie, Haiti,

Damaged houses are seen after Hurricane Matthew passes in Jeremie, Haiti, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Diarrhea-stricken residents in the village of Chevalier were well aware of the nearby cholera outbreak, but had little option except to drink the brackish water from the local well that they believed was already contaminated by dead livestock.

“We have been abandoned by a government that never thinks of us,” said Marie-Ange Henry, as she surveyed her smashed home.

She said Chevalier had yet to receive any aid and many, like her, were coming down with fever. Cholera, she feared, was on its way.

Pierre Moise Mongerard, a pastor, was banking on divine assistance to rescue his roofless church in the village of Torbeck. In his Sunday best – a sports coat, chinos and brown leather shoes – he joined a small choir in songs that echoed out into the surrounding rice fields.

“We hope that God gives us the possibility to rebuild the Church and help the victims here in this area,” he said, before the music seized him, and he slowly joined in the chant, closing his eyes and turning his palms up toward the sky.

(Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Kieran Murray)

HELP FOR HAITI

Hurricane Matthew toll in Haiti rises to 1000, dead begin buried in mass graves

Destroyed houses are seen after Hurricane Matthew passes in Corail, Haiti

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haiti started burying some of its dead in mass graves in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a government official said on Sunday, as cholera spread in the devastated southwest and the death toll from the storm rose to 1,000 people.

The powerful hurricane, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, slammed into Haiti on Tuesday with 145 mile-per-hour (233 kph) winds and torrential rains that left 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

A Reuters tally of numbers from local officials showed that 1,000 people were killed by the storm in Haiti, which has a population of about 10 million and is the poorest country in the Americas.

The official death toll from the central civil protection agency is 336, a slower count because officials must visit each village to confirm the numbers.

Authorities had to start burying the dead in mass graves in Jeremie because the bodies were starting to decompose, said Kedner Frenel, the most senior central government official in the Grand’Anse region on Haiti’s western peninsula.

Frenel said 522 people were killed in Grand’Anse alone. A tally of deaths reported by mayors from 15 of 18 municipalities in Sud Department on the south side of the peninsula showed 386 people there. In the rest of the country, 92 people were killed, the same tally showed.

Two girls play amid the rubble after Hurricane Matthew in a street of Port-a-Piment, Haiti,

Two girls play amid the rubble after Hurricane Matthew in a street of Port-a-Piment, Haiti, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

Frenel said there was great concern about cholera spreading, and that authorities were focused on getting water, food and medication to the thousands of people living in shelters.

Cholera causes severe diarrhoea and can kill within hours if untreated. It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.

Government teams fanned out across the hard-hit southwestern tip of the country over the weekend to repair treatment centres and reach the epicentre of one outbreak.

(Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva; Writing by Christine Murray; Editing by Diane Craft and Paul Tait)

Deadly Hurricane Matthew touches land on southeastern U.S. coast

Hurricane Matthew's center is seen near the coast of South Carolina, U.S. in this NOAA's GOES-East satellite image

By Scott Malone and Harriet McLeod

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla./CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Hurricane Matthew made landfall on the U.S. coast in South Carolina on Saturday, packing a diminished yet still powerful punch after killing almost 900 people in Haiti and causing major flooding and widespread power outages in the U.S. Southeast.

The storm, which left flooding and wind damage in Florida, soaked coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday but was packing a diminished punch. Wind speeds had dropped below 85 miles per hour (135 kph), making it a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest on the Saffir-Simpson scale of 1 to 5.

It made landfall near the town of McClellanville, north of Charleston, according to the National Hurricane Service, which warned a “serious inland flooding event” was unfolding.

At least four deaths in Florida were attributed to the storm, which knocked out power to least 1.5 million households and businesses in the southeastern United States.

In Florida, 775,000 were without power, according to state utilities, while in South Carolina 433,000 had no power, Governor Nikki Haley said. Georgia Power said at least 275,000 were without power in the state.

osh Rhodes (L) and Tim Rossland look at a fallen tree in Telfair Square after Hurricane Matthew passed through in Savannah, Georgia

Josh Rhodes (L) and Tim Rossland look at a fallen tree in Telfair Square after Hurricane Matthew passed through in Savannah, Georgia October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Roads in Jackson Beach were littered with wood, including sections of a historic quarter-mile-long pier, and foot-deep (15 cm) water clogged intersections. Moderate damage could be seen on beachfront businesses, with fences and awnings torn down.

“We rode out the storm. It wasn’t this bad at our house, but here there’s a lot of damage,” said Zowi Cuartas, 18, as he watched people pick up shattered signs knocked down by the wind and waves near the beach. “We were prepared to lose our house.”

Governor Rick Scott of Florida said more than 6,000 people stayed in shelters on Friday night, but he appeared relieved at a news conference on Saturday the storm did not do more harm.

“We’re all blessed that Matthew stayed off our coast,” he said, though he also described extensive flooding, damaged roads, downed trees and homes without electricity. He predicted most people would have power back by Sunday evening. He did not comment on the reports of four deaths.

Streets in downtown Charleston were flooding up to the tops of tires on some cars and a few residents waded, some barefoot, near the city’s sea wall as high tide approached. At the High Battery at Charleston peninsula’s tip, waves were close to topping the sea wall with spray splashing onto East Bay Street.

“It blew like hell,” said resident and writer Roger Pinckney, 70.

Charleston officials said they were not aware of any deaths, injuries or significant structural damage. Winds and the threat of surges were expected to diminish through the day, National Weather Service forecaster James Carpenter said by telephone.

The toll in the United States was far less devastating than in Haiti, where at least 877 people were killed, a death toll that ticked up as information trickled in from remote areas, according to a Reuters tally of tolls from officials.

Matthew rampaged through Haiti’s western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. Some 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said, after the storm hurled the sea into fragile coastal villages. The aid group Doctors Without Borders was flying people in by helicopter to deal with emerging cholera cases and warned there was a risk of a larger outbreak.

The Mesa Verde, a U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship, was en route to Haiti to support relief efforts. The ship has heavy-lift helicopters, bulldozers, fresh-water delivery vehicles and two surgical operating rooms. The U.S. government was also airlifting in blankets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting for emergency shelters, according to a statement by the United States Agency for International Development.

A truck passes through flooded water at a business after Hurricane Matthew passed through in Savannah, Georgia

A truck passes through flooded water at a business after Hurricane Matthew passed through in Savannah, Georgia October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

FLOODS PREDICTED

The NHC predicted the storm would possibly strike the U.S. coast on Saturday morning or afternoon.

“Regardless of whether or not the center makes landfall, hurricane-force winds in the northern eyewall will lash much of the coast of South Carolina,” an NHC advisory said.

Matthew sideswiped Florida’s coast with winds of up to 120 mph (195 kph) but did not make landfall.

Governors in several states held news conferences on Saturday morning, including Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory warned storm surges and high winds could cause serious problems and was “extremely concerned” that the hurricane downgrade would cause residents not to take warnings seriously.

Forecasters warned of flooding as 15 inches (40 cm) of rain were expected to fall in parts of the region along with massive storm surges and high tides.

Some 8 inches (20 cm) of rain had fallen in the Savannah, Georgia area where Matthew downed trees and caused flooding.

Though gradually weakening, Matthew – which triggered mass evacuations along the southeast U.S. coast – was forecast to remain a hurricane until it begins moving away on Sunday, the NHC said.

President Barack Obama and officials urged people to heed safety instructions.

Florida officials urged residents not to rush back to homes that still lacked power on streets clogged with debris.

“You are going to continue to see some flooding, damage and power outages,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry told reporters on Saturday, adding that the roads into the beach area would be reopened to residents around noon.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Zachary Goelman in Orlando, Fla. and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)

More than 800 killed by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, storm lashes Florida

Rain falls and winds caused by storm are seen while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Melbourne, Florida,

By Joseph Guyler Delva and Scott Malone

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti/DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – Hurricane Matthew killed more than 800 people and left tens of thousands homeless in its rampage through Haiti earlier this week before it lashed Florida on Friday with howling winds and rolled northward up the U.S. Atlantic coast.

The number of deaths in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, surged to at least 842 on Friday as information trickled in from remote areas previously cut off by the storm, according to a Reuters tally of death tolls given by officials.

Matthew, potentially the first major hurricane to hit the United States head on in more than a decade, triggered mass evacuations along the coast from Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina.

Southern Florida escaped the brunt of the storm overnight, but U.S. President Barack Obama urged people not to be complacent and to heed local officials’ instructions in the face of a storm that could be the most severe to strike northeast Florida in more than 100 years.

“I just want to emphasize to everybody that this is still a really dangerous hurricane, that the potential for storm surge, loss of life and severe property damage exists,” Obama told reporters after a briefing with emergency management officials.

Matthew smashed through Haiti’s western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. Some 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said, after the storm pushed the sea into fragile coastal villages, some of which were only now being contacted.

At least three towns reported dozens of people killed in the hills and coast of Haiti’s fertile western tip, including the farming village of Chantal where the mayor said 86 people died, mostly when trees crushed houses. He said 20 others were missing.

“A tree fell on the house and flattened it, the entire house fell on us. I couldn’t get out,” said driver Jean-Pierre Jean-Donald, 27, who had been married for only a year.

“People came to lift the rubble, and then we saw my wife who had died in the same spot,” Jean-Donald said, his young daughter by his side, crying “Mommy.”

With cellphone networks down and roads flooded by sea and river water, aid has been slow to reach hard-hit areas in Haiti. Food was scarce, and at least seven people died of cholera, likely because of flood water mixing with sewage.

The USS Mesa Verde, a U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship, was heading for Haiti to support relief efforts. A Navy spokesman said the ship would take heavy-lift helicopters, bulldozers and fresh water delivery vehicles. The ship has a surgical team and two operating rooms on board.

FLORIDA POWER CUTS

Matthew skirted Florida on Friday with winds of up to 120 miles per hour (195 kph), but did not make landfall. The U.S. National Hurricane Center’s hurricane warning extended up the Atlantic coast from central Florida through Georgia and South Carolina and into North Carolina.

In Daytona Beach, Florida, the street under the city’s famed “World’s Most Famous Beach” sign was clogged with debris washed up by the ocean. The waves had receded by early afternoon but damage was evident throughout the city, including a facade ripped off the front of a seaside hotel.

The city of Jacksonville could face significant flooding, Governor Rick Scott said. The storm had cut power to some 827,000 households in Florida, he said.

Matthew passed over the Bahamas on Thursday and on Friday armed guards patrolled the outside of Fox Hill prison in the capital of Nassau, the Bahamas’ only prison facility, after the storm knocked down several parts of its external concrete walls.

Matthew also tore off part of the side of the RIU Paradise Island, one of the major hotel resorts in Nassau, exposing several guest rooms to the elements.

No deaths were reported from the Bahamas, but residents of Nassau were still without power on Friday.

At 2 p.m. (1800 GMT), Matthew’s eye, or center, was brushing the northeast Florida coast, the NHC said. Its winds had weakened slightly to 115 mph (185 kph) and it was moving at around 12 mph (19 kph) on a path that would likely take it near or over the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia through Friday night and near or over the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.

No significant damage or injuries were reported in cities and towns in south Florida where the storm brought down trees and power lines, CNN and local media reported.

Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he was concerned that relatively light damage so far could give people farther up the coast a false sense of security.

“People should not be looking at the damages they’re seeing and saying this storm is not that bad,” Fugate told NBC.

“The real danger still is storm surge, particularly in northern Florida and southern Georgia. These are very vulnerable areas. They’ve never seen this kind of damage potential since the late 1800s,” Fugate said.

In Cape Canaveral, Florida, home to the country’s main space launch site, the storm downed power lines and trees and destroyed billboards.

After losing some strength on Thursday night, Matthew was still a Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. Category 5 is the strongest.

The U.S. National Weather Service said it could be the most powerful storm to strike northeast Florida in 118 years. The last major hurricane, classified as a storm bearing sustained winds of more than 110 mph (177 kph), to make landfall on U.S. shores was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

SOME FLORIDIANS RELUCTANT TO LEAVE

In St. Augustine just south of Jacksonville, about half of the 14,000 residents have refused to heed evacuation orders despite warnings of an eight-foot (2.4- meter) storm surge that could sink entire neighborhoods, Mayor Nancy Shaver said in a telephone interview from the area’s emergency operations center.

Even as power started to dim and water was shut off in St. Augustine, the oldest U.S. city and a major tourism attraction, residents, especially elderly and the working poor, refused to budge, she said.

“There’s that whole inability to suspend disbelief that I think really affects people in a time like this,” Shaver said.

In addition to those who simply did not believe the storm was a major threat, some of the city’s residents lacked vehicles or other means to evacuate, said Shaver.

Lack of means to move was one reason some people stayed in New Orleans before it was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm killed more than 1,800 people there and along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

About 22,000 people were in Florida shelters and more had moved inland or to the state’s west coast, Scott said. Georgia and South Carolina had also opened dozens of shelters for evacuees.

South Carolina officials warned residents of potentially damaging flooding and storm surge once Matthew arrives there.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and a senior FEMA official called both candidates for the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, to brief them on Friday them about the storm.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Eric Walsh and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Gabriel Stargardter in Miami; Zachary Goelman in Orlando, Fla.; Zachary Fagenson in Wellington, Fla.; Irene Klotz in Portland, Maine; Laila Kearney in New York; Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Neil Hartnell in Nassau; Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Death toll in Haiti surges, storm hugs Florida coast

A pedestrian runs across a street as the eye of Hurricane Matthew approaches Daytona Beach, Florida,

By Scott Malone and Zachary Goelman

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – Hurricane Matthew, carrying winds of 120 miles per hour (195 kph), lashed central Florida on Friday, hugging the Atlantic coast as it moved north and threatened more destruction after killing more than 500 people and leaving thousands homeless in Haiti.

Matthew, the first major hurricane that could hit the United States head on in more than a decade, triggered mass evacuations along the coast from Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina.

Southern Florida escaped the brunt of the storm overnight, but U.S. President Barack Obama and other officials urged people farther north not to get complacent.

“I just want to emphasize to everybody that this is still a really dangerous hurricane, that the potential for storm surge, loss of life and severe property damage exists and people continue to need to follow the instructions of their local officials over the next 24, 48, 72 hours,” Obama told reporters after a briefing with emergency management and other officials.

The Florida city of Jacksonville could face significant flooding, Florida Governor Rick Scott said. The storm had cut power to some 600,000 households in the state, he told a news conference.

In the Caribbean country of Haiti, where poor rural communities were ravaged by Matthew, the death toll surged to at least 572 people on Friday, as information trickled in from remote areas previously cut off by the storm, according to a Reuters tally of death tolls given by officials.

Matthew smashed through the tip of Haiti’s western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. Some 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said, after the storm pushed the sea into fragile coastal villages, some of which were only now being contacted.

Cellphone networks were down and roads were flooded by sea and river water in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

Aid has been slow to reach towns and villages around the peninsula. Instead, locals have been helping each other.

“My house wasn’t destroyed, so I am receiving people, like it’s a temporary shelter,” said Bellony Amazan in the town of Cavaillon, where around a dozen people died. Amazan said she had no food to give people.

At 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT), Matthew’s eye, or center, was brushing the Florida coast near the central city of Daytona Beach, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

“The winds are ferocious right now,” said Jeff Piotrowski, a 40-year-old storm chaser from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who early on Friday was near Cape Canaveral, home to the country’s main space launch site. The storm downed power lines and trees and destroyed billboards in Cape Canaveral, he said.

No significant damage or injuries were reported in West Palm Beach and other cities and towns in south Florida where the storm brought down trees and power lines earlier in the night, CNN and local media reported.

FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY

Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he was concerned that relatively light damage so far could give people farther north a false sense of security.

“People should not be looking at the damages they’re seeing and saying this storm is not that bad,” Fugate told NBC. People should also be aware the hurricane carried more than just ferocious winds, he said.

“The real danger still is storm surge, particularly in northern Florida and southern Georgia. These are very vulnerable areas. They’ve never seen this kind of damage potential since the late 1800s.”

NASA and the U.S. Air Force, which operate the Cape Canaveral launch site, had taken steps to safeguard personnel and equipment. A team of 116 employees was bunkered down inside Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center to ride out the hurricane.

Matthew lessened in intensity on Thursday night and into Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, but was still a Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. Category 5 is the strongest.

It could either plow inland or tear along the Atlantic coast through Friday night, the Miami-based center said. The U.S. National Weather Service said the storm could be the most powerful to strike northeast Florida in 118 years.

The NHC’s hurricane warning extended up the Atlantic coast from southern Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina. The last major hurricane, classified as a storm bearing sustained winds of more than 110 mph (177 kph), to make landfall on U.S. shores was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Damage and potential casualties in the Bahamas were still unclear as Matthew passed near the capital, Nassau, on Thursday and then moved out over Grand Bahama Island.

Governor Scott has called on some 1.5 million people in coastal areas of Florida to evacuate and he continued to urge people to move away from danger on Friday.

As of Friday morning, about 22,000 people were in Florida shelters and more had moved inland or to the state’s west coast, Scott said. Georgia and South Carolina had also opened dozens of shelters for evacuees.

Those states, as well as North Carolina, declared states of emergency, empowering their governors to mobilize the National Guard. Obama declared states of emergency in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, a move that authorized federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Eric Walsh and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Gabriel Stargardter in Miami; Joseph Guyler Delva in Haiti; Zachery Fagenson in Wellington, Fla.; Irene Klotz in Portland, Maine; Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Alistair Bell)

‘We have nothing to survive on;’ desperation as Haiti toll hits over 400

People try to rebuild their destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Hait

By Makini Brice and Joseph Guyler Delva

LES CAYES, Haiti/PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – The number of people killed by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti rose rapidly into the hundreds on Thursday, mainly in villages making contact with the outside world days after the cyclone ripped through the impoverished nation’s picturesque western peninsula.

With the numbers rising quickly, different government agencies and committees differed on the total death toll. A Reuters tally of deaths reported by civil protection officials at a local level showed the storm killed at least over 400 people.

“Several dozen” were killed in the coastal town of Les Anglais in Sud Department, said Louis Paul Raphael, the central government’s representative in the region. Inland in nearby Chantal, the toll rose to 90 late in the evening, the town’s  mayor said.

People wash their clothes in front of their partially destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes

People wash their clothes in front of their partially destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

In 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake wrecked Port-au-Prince, killing upward of 200,000 people. However, the impact of this tragedy, has been felt most in a remote but populated region, far from the capital’s support.

“We have nothing left to survive on, all the crops have gone, all fruit trees are down, I don’t have a clue how this is going to be fixed,” said Marc Soniel Noel, the deputy mayor of Chantal.

Matthew is the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since Felix in 2007 and was closing in on Florida as a Category 4 cyclone, the second strongest on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. Four people were killed over the weekend in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

The devastation in Haiti prompted authorities to postpone a presidential election scheduled for Sunday.

Many victims were killed by falling trees, flying debris and swollen rivers when Matthew hit on Tuesday with winds of 145 miles per hour (230 kph).

Most of the fatalities were in towns and fishing villages around the western end of Tiburon peninsula in Haiti’s southwest, a region of white Caribbean beaches and rivers backed by hills.

The storm passed directly through the peninsula, driving the sea inland and flattening homes on Monday and Tuesday.

People gather next to a collapsed bridge after Hurricane Matthew passes Petit Goave, Hait

People gather next to a collapsed bridge after Hurricane Matthew passes Petit Goave, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

FLEEING IN PANIC

Les Anglais was the first to be hit by Matthew and has since been out of contact. The mayor told Reuters just before the storm hit that people were fleeing their houses in panic as the sea surged into town.

A few miles south in Port-a-Piment village, Mayor Jean-Raymond Pierre-Louis said 25 people were killed. Another 24 were killed in the village of Roche-a-Bateau further south.

In Grand Anse Department, also on the storm’s destructive path but on the other side of the peninsula, 38 more lost their lives.

Earlier on Thursday, a meeting of emergency workers including representatives from the government, the United Nations and international aid agencies said 283 had been killed. Reuters attended the meeting.

In one public hospital in Les Cayes, a coffee and vetiver exporting port on Haiti’s Tiburon peninsula, most doctors had not shown up to work since they took shelter as the storm hit. Food and water were scarce in shelters.

Poverty, weak government and precarious living conditions for many of its citizens make Haiti particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. International aid has at times made things worse.

Following the 2010 earthquake, U.N. peacekeepers inadvertently introduced cholera to Haiti, killing at least 9,000 people and infecting hundreds of thousands more.

The Pan American Health Organization said on Thursday it was preparing for a possible cholera surge in Haiti after the hurricane because flooding was likely to contaminate water supplies.

In Les Cayes’ tiny airport, windows were blown out and the terminal roof was mostly missing, although the landing strip was not heavily damaged.

“The runway is working. In the hours and days to come, we can receive humanitarian flights,” said Sergot Tilis, the information officer and runway agent for the airport.

(Reporting by Makini Brice and Joseph Guyler Delva; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Paul Tait)

At least 478 died in Haiti from Hurricane Matthew

Destroyed houses are seen in a village after Hurricane Matthew passes Corail, Haiti,

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – The number of people killed by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti rose to at least 478 people on Friday, as information trickled in from remote areas previously cut off by the storm, officials said.

With the numbers rising quickly, different government agencies and committees differed on the total death toll. A Reuters tally of deaths reported by civil protection officials at a local level confirmed 478 had died.

Haiti’s central civil protection agency, which takes longer to collate numbers, said 271 people died because of the storm. Some 61,500 remain in shelters, the agency said.

(Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva)