Hurricane Matthew left a broad swath of destruction across Haiti on Wednesday with flooding, rivers of mud that washed out a crucial bridge into the southwestern peninsula of the country and thousands seeking shelter.
Eleven people died across the Caribbean, including five in Haiti, said Haiti Ambassador Paul Altidor. There were initial reports of more than 10,000 living in shelters.
The ambassador said the government is confident the number of dead will “remain quite low.” “There was a strong motivation to keep people away from the dangerous areas,” Altidor said.
He said the government had enough advance warning to begin to move people away from dangerous, flooding areas and he believes that this saved lives.
“It’s been decades since the Caribbean has seen a hurricane of this magnitude, the heavy downpour. This is something that has not been seen in a long, long time. It is a major, major disaster.”
But Altidor said it is nowhere near the level of disaster Haiti endured in the 2010 earthquake where 200,000 died.
A United Nations representative to Haiti, Mourad Wahba, agreed the country was facing its largest humanitarian crisis since an earthquake in 2010 that left tens of thousands living in tents and makeshift dwellings. Some 55,000 Haitians left homeless by that earthquake were still living in shelters when Hurricane Matthew struck. Wahba said hospitals were jammed with people and running out of clean water.
The U.N. estimated that 2.3 million people are living in areas impacted by the hurricane. That population includes an estimated 17,000 pregnant women expected to give birth within the next three months, said Marielle Sander, a representative of UNFPA, that deals with population health issues.
On Wednesday, a U.S. Southern Command-directed team began deploying to Port-au-Prince to provide humanitarian and disaster relief assistance. The team, under direction of the U.S. Agency for International Development, set up a command center at the airport in the capital.