iStock/Thinkstock(PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti) — At least 108 people have died in Haiti as a result of Hurricane Matthew, which ripped through the country two days ago and left a trail of immense destruction, the Haitian interior minister confirmed to ABC News.
The full extent of the devastation is only now becoming apparent as officials from Haiti’s civil protection agency and international workers continue to assess the damage.
Officials say the death toll is expected to rise, as aid workers are still trying to access villages in the southern part of the country that have been flooded nearly to the point of non-existence.
The Haitian Health Foundation, a Connecticut-based NGO, told ABC News that a pilot who flew over the coastal city of Jeremie Wednesday said, “It’s wiped out. Barely 1 percent of houses are standing. The people are alive…they survived. But soon they may starve. They’re cut off.”
Aerial photos that emerged a day following the hurricane also revealed the devastation of the storm that deluged southern Haiti with floodwater.
Jean-Michel Vigreux, country director for the non-profit group CARE in Haiti, said in a statement that the southern part of Haiti “is now cut off from the rest of the country.”
“We’re still assessing the impacts, but we know of floods, landslides and continuous heavy rains in some areas of the south. We also have heard of destroyed houses, streets and bridges, dead livestock and destroyed livelihoods,” Vigreux added.
At least 350,000 people need immediate assistance, a spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the full extent of the damage remains unclear but U.N. groups are standing by to assist.
Mourad Wahba, the U.N. secretary general’s deputy special representative for Haiti, added in a statement that “Haiti is facing the largest humanitarian event witnessed since the earthquake six years ago,” referring to a 2010 quake that left some 200,000 people dead.
Vigreux added that the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Matthew are some of the most vulnerable in the country, the poorest in the Americas, where the long-term effects of the devastating 2010 earthquake are still palpable.
The U.S. military announced it is moving nine helicopters and 100 personnel to Haiti, starting Thursday, to assist in the country’s relief efforts.
Dr. Charles-Patrick Almazor, the chief medical officer in Haiti for Partners In Health, a medical organization focused on helping disadvantaged people around the world, is on the ground in Port-au-Prince. He said it has been nearly impossible for many to get in contact with relatives and friends who live in the southern part of Haiti, leaving many fearing for the worst.
Almazor added that he fears a surge in Cholera and Zika outbreaks could be possible in the weeks following the hurricane.
In a statement Wednesday, Almazor said, “though the storm has passed, experience tells us that the worst is yet to come.”
The storm has also wreaked havoc on the country’s politics, as officials were forced to indefinitely postpone a presidential election scheduled for Sunday in the face of the devastation.
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