Thousands flee as deadly Hurricane Matthew hits Haiti

Thousands flee as deadly Hurricane Matthew hits Haiti

Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti Tuesday, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas, AFP writes.

The US National Hurricane Center said Matthew made landfall shortly after daybreak as an “extremely dangerous” Category Four storm near the southwestern town of Les Anglais, packing maximum sustained winds of around 145 miles (230 kilometers) per hour.

It marked the first time in 52 years that a Category Four storm made landfall in Haiti.

The storm could hit the US east coast around mid-week.

Also the most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince.

The eye of the storm was expected to hit the far eastern end of Cuba later in the day, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported at 1800 GMT.

Even before making landfall along the southern edge of a jagged peninsula on Hispaniola — the island that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic — Matthew was blamed for at least three deaths in Haiti, with fears that the toll could climb.

Matthew notched a four on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale, the first Category Four hurricane to make landfall in Haiti since Cleo in 1964, the NHC said.

The hurricane was forecast to dump 38 to 63 centimeters (15 to 25 inches) of rain over southern Haiti with up to a meter possible in isolated areas.

Rising waters already have caused extensive flooding in and around the flimsy homes and buildings in Haiti’s southwest.

More than 9,000 Haitians have been evacuated to temporary shelters at area schools and churches, the Interior Ministry said. But civil protection forces have struggled with locals who refused to leave some of the most vulnerable areas.

They included the capital’s extremely impoverished, densely populated neighborhoods, including Cite Soleil — where one fifth of the half-million residents face serious flooding risks — and the seaside Cite L’Eternel.

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