Hurricane Matthew, now considered the most powerful Atlantic hurricane since Felix in 2007, is expected to bear down on the western tip of Haiti early Tuesday.
As per BBC’s update, the US National Hurricane Center described the fast-approaching Matthew as “life-threatening.” So much so that there are people who have recently lost their lives, according to Interim Haitian President Jocelerme Privert.
“We’ve already seen deaths. People who were out at sea. There are people who are missing. They are people who didn’t respect the alerts. They’ve lost their lives,” Privert said.
The impoverished Caribbean nation is bracing for deadly rains, winds, and a storm surge. The towns and villages are expected to be ill-prepared for the coming hurricane because of the poor housing infrastructure in many rural areas, USA Today reports.
“With wind this strong, it will be extremely damaging and dangerous and homes for the average person are made of mud and sticks or poorly constructed cinderblocks,” said John Hasse, a member of World Vision who volunteered as an aid worker in Haiti.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to deliver 40 inches (102cm) of rain and winds of 145mph (230km/h), which could trigger mudslides and flash floods.
Matthew is forecast to bear down on Haiti’s south-western tip around dawn.
Authorities have urged people to stockpile food and water and secure their homes in preparation for the hurricane. Thousands of Haitian citizens, however, are still living in tents on account of a huge earthquake in 2010.
The 2010 Haiti earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.0 was one of the most devastating natural disasters in decades, mainly on account of the country’s poor infrastructure, steep terrain, and insufficient emergency-response protocols.
As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is still struggling to recover from the devastation caused by the earthquake seven years ago and the cholera epidemic that impacted the nation. Even worse, the nation is one of the most deforested countries in the world. Hurricane Matthew poses a real threat to Haiti due to its steep terrain as well, which makes it susceptible to landslides and mudslides.
According to Haiti’s protection agency, Hurricane Matthew has caused one death so far, a fisherman who drowned at sea as the hurricane raged. This raised the hurricane’s casualty count to three, including one man in Colombia and a teenager in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Residents who reside in shacks or shanties have refused to evacuate or relocate despite the threat posed by Hurricane Matthew because they fear that their belongings may be stolen.
“If we lose our things we are not going to get them back!” Toussaint Laine, an unemployed family man who lives in a shack in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince, told the Associated Press.
The most powerful hurricane season that Haiti experienced prior to the 2010 earthquake occurred in 2008, when four hurricanes hit the nation, leaving 800 people dead and 22,000 homes destroyed. Around 70 percent of the nation’s crops were destroyed, according to ReliefWeb.org. The hurricanes were named Fay, Ustav, Hanna, and Ike respectively.
According to NOAA, Hurricane Matthew’s path will run through high-risk areas in neighboring Dominican Republic, which is expected to be hit by rains and winds, as stated by the country’s civil defense chief.
Parts of Jamaica have been hit by heavy rain and winds as well, which blocked many roads in the capital Kingston with floodwaters.
Hurricane Matthew will be approaching eastern Cuba, where a hurricane alert has been set in place for six eastern provinces. Residents from low areas have already been evacuated.
Hurricane Matthew will also pass through the east of Florida all the way to the Bahamas. It’s too early to tell at this point whether the monster hurricane will hit the U.S. coast.
[Featured Image by Handout/Getty Images]