Bahamas Braces to Meet Hurricane Matthew

People riding on a motorcycle move between fallen  trees after Hurricane Matthew passed through Les Cayes, Haiti, on Oct. 4.People riding on a motorcycle move between fallen  trees after Hurricane Matthew passed through Les Cayes, Haiti, on Oct. 4.

Hurricane Matthew roared toward the southern Bahamas with its dangerous winds early Wednesday, leaving behind widespread damage and human suffering in Haiti’s poor, rural southwestern peninsula where the hardest-hit area was cut off by flooding.

At least 11 deaths had been blamed on the powerful storm during its weeklong march across the Caribbean, five of them in Haiti. But with a key bridge washed out, roads impassable and phone communications down, the western tip of Haiti was isolated and there was no word on dead and injured, AP reported.

Hours after Matthew swept onto the remote area with 145 mph winds, government leaders said they were not close to fully gauging the impact in the vulnerable, flood-prone country where less powerful storms have killed thousands.

“What we know is that many, many houses have been damaged. Some lost rooftops and they’ll have to be replaced while others were totally destroyed,” Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph said.

At 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT), Matthew had top sustained winds of 205 kph and was heading north at 13 kph as it was starting to take aim at the Bahamas. Forecasters reported tropical storm conditions were already spreading over the southeastern Bahamas early Wednesday, with hurricane conditions expected there in coming hours.

Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie voiced concern about the potential impact on the sprawling archipelago off Florida’s east coast.

Matthew was at one point a Category 5 storm, making it the most powerful hurricane in the region in nearly a decade. It blew ashore around dawn in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and a place where many people live in shacks of wood or concrete blocks.

Mourad Wahba, UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Haiti, said at least 10,000 people were in shelters and hospitals were overflowing and running short of water. Wahba’s statement called the hurricane’s destruction the “largest humanitarian event” in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of January 2010.

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