PORT-AU-PRINCE – Hurricane Matthew made landfall Tuesday on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, leaving at least two people dead in Haiti and another four in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
Matthew, a powerful Category 4 storm packing winds of 230 kph (145 mph), roared ashore in the western part of Haiti, a country highly vulnerable to natural disasters and which has never fully recovered from the devastating January 2010 earthquake, the United Nations said Tuesday.
One man died Tuesday in Baridel when his house was destroyed by powerful rains and high winds, after a fisherman drowned Sunday night in Saint-Jean-du-Sud.
In the Dominican Republic, three minors and an adult died in mudslides caused by the heavy rains, for which 18,545 people were evacuated around the country, the Emergency Operations Center, or COE, reported Tuesday.
More than 200 houses were destroyed in the southern Haitian towns of Pestel, Dame Marie and Les Anglais, while in Jeremie more than 300 prisoners had to be relocated.
Torrential downpours and powerful winds have interrupted electricity and Internet services in some areas of Haiti, according to official reports.
The Haitian government has set aside some $7,700 for each of the 140 municipalities to deal with whatever damage the hurricane might cause, since it is the most powerful to surge out of the Atlantic since Hurricane Felix in 2007, which left more than 130 dead in Nicaragua.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) described Haiti as a “textbook example of all the risk factors that could come together in advance of the arriving natural hazard.”
More than 60,000 Haitians still live in camps for displaced persons, and hundreds of thousands live in flimsily built shanties.
The rains could cause vast flooding, which might make the vulnerable sewage system and sources of drinking water even more precarious, which would in turn intensify the country’s existing cholera epidemic.
Despite the hurricane, the Haitian Electoral Council announced Monday that it will continue to hold its general elections next Sunday.
In the Dominican Republic, the COE director, Gen. Juan Manuel Mendez, who called on residents in vulnerable areas to respect “the obligatory nature of the evacuations to avoid tragedies,” said that 31 towns are currently incommunicado.
A 5-year-old boy died when a wall of his home collapsed in the La Puya sector of Santo Domingo, the same that happened to a man, 55, in the capital’s Manoguayabo sector.
Two little girls ages 7 and 8 died trapped in their home when it collapsed under a mudslide.