Haiti digs out from Hurricane Matthew

October 08, 2016
Atanase Constant stands in the ruins of his home destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti.
Teacher Simeus cleans his office destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Hait.
Saint Anne Church is totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti.
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JEREMIE, Haiti (AP)
People across southwest Haiti were digging through the wreckage of their homes yesterday, salvaging what they could of their meager possessions after devastating Hurricane Matthew killed hundreds of people in the impoverished country.

The central government's official death toll stood at nearly 300, but an official in southwest Haiti said that figure did not include at least 80 more people and authorities doing the on-ground assessment in remote corners of the southwestern peninsula said it would likely be significantly higher.

Saint-Victor Jeune, an official with the Civil Protection agency working in Beaumont, in the mountains on the outskirts of hard-hit Jeremie, said 82 bodies found by his team had not been recorded by authorities in the capital because of spotty communications. Most appeared to have died from falling debris from the winds that tore through the area at 145 mph (235 kph) on Tuesday.

"We don't have any contact with Port-au-Prince yet and there are places we still haven't reached," Jeune said, as he and a team of Civil Protection agents in orange vests combed through the area.

The storm left signs of devastation all around the southwestern peninsula. Outside the coastal town of Jeremie, home after home was in ruins. Drew Garrison, a Haiti-based missionary who flew in Friday, said several fishing villages along the coast were submerged and he could see bodies floating in the water.

"Anything that wasn't concrete was flattened," said Garrison, whose organisation, Mission of Hope Haiti, based in Austin, Texas, was bringing in a barge loaded with emergency supplies on Saturday. "There were several little fishing villages that just looked desolate, no life."

Solette Phelicin, a mother of five who lost her home and her small fruit and vegetable plot, watched from her yard as UN peacekeepers patrolled the small air strip. She said they were hungry and desperately in need of food. "Jeremie might get rebuilt after I'm dead, maybe, but I doubt it."

As Haitians mourned their losses, they tried to recover what they could of their belongings. Homes throughout the area were piles of rubble, the roofs mangled or stripped away. 

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