Haitian officials on Thursday dramatically raised the known death toll from Hurricane Matthew as they finally began to reach corners of the country that had been cut off by the rampaging storm.
Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph announced that at least 108 had died, up from a previous count of 23. But he gave no details.
That raised the hurricane’s overall toll across the Caribbean to 114.
Officials were especially concerned about the department of Grand-Anse, located on the northern tip of the peninsula that was slammed by the Category 4 storm, which severed roads and communications links.
“(It) got hit extremely hard,” said Guillaume Albert Moleon, Interior Ministry spokesman.
Matthew mashed concrete walls and tore away rooftops, forcing thousands of Haitians to flee for their lives.
In the southwest seaport of Les Cayes, many were searching for clean water on Thursday as they lugged mattresses and other scant belongings they were able to salvage.
“Nothing is going well,” said Jardine Laguerre, a teacher. “The water took what little money we had. We are hungry.”
Authorities and aid workers were just beginning to get a clear picture of what they fear is the country’s biggest disaster in years.
Before hitting Haiti, the storm was blamed for four deaths in the Dominican Republic, one in Colombia and one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
So far there were no reports of casualties from better-equipped Cuba or the Bahamas, which was being hit by the hurricane on Thursday.
In Haiti’s southern peninsula towns where Matthew arrived around daybreak Tuesday with 145 mph (235 kph) winds, there was wreckage and misery everywhere.
“The floodwater took all the food we have in the house. Now we are starving and don’t have anything to cook,” said farmer Antoine Louis as he stood in brown water up to his thighs in the doorway of his deluged concrete shack.
Civil aviation authorities reported counting 3,214 destroyed homes along the southern peninsula, where many families live in shacks with sheet metal roofs and don’t always have the resources to escape harm’s way.
The government has estimated at least 350,000 people need some kind of assistance after the disaster, which U.N. Deputy Special Representative for Haiti Mourad Wahba has called the country’s worst humanitarian crisis since the devastating earthquake of 2010.
International aid groups are already appealing for donations for a lengthy recovery effort in Haiti, the hemisphere’s least developed and most aid-dependent nation.
In nearby Cuba, Matthew blew across that island’s sparsely populated eastern tip, destroying dozens of homes and damaging hundreds in the island’s easternmost city, Baracoa. But the government oversaw the evacuation of nearly 380,000 people and strong measures were taken to protect communities and infrastructure, U.N. officials said.