Hurricane Matthew Is ‘Catastrophic’ for Haiti, Will Now Head for Cuba
Haiti’s weak infrastructure and vulnerability to cholera make the hurricane especially dangerous.
The deadly storm known as Hurricane Matthew spun over Haiti this morning, dumping rain and lashing already-weak infrastructure with 145 mph winds before heading for Cuba.
As of 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon the storm was headed for Cuba and was estimated to be 65 miles away from Guantanamo, Cuba, where the United States operates a Navy base that houses detainees.
The storm hit Haiti on its west coast this morning, making landfall at the town of Les Anglais at 7 a.m. ET before traveling north, according to the National Hurricane Center. The small island nation expected to be soaked with up to 40 inches of rain and storm surges of 5 to 7 feet above average tides, according to the the NHC.
One Haitian lawmaker, Sen. Nenel Cassy, told the Miami Herald the storm was “truly catastrophic."
Haiti is uniquely vulnerable to a damaging storm. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the country’s infrastructure in 2010, killing 200,000 and forcing 1 million more to live in tents. Months later, a cholera outbreak killed thousands more. Cholera is a water-borne disease.*
It’s also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The country also has steep terrain and only 2 percent of the land is covered in trees, which could put the country at risk for mudslides, according to CNN.
Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency told the Associated Press that many homes had already been damaged in the southern part of the country.
The United States Agency for International Development said it would provide $400,000 in aid to Haiti and Jamaica and send disaster assistance teams to help the countries.
Hurricane Matthew has already claimed lives. One fisherman off of Haiti was confirmed dead; a second was presumed dead; a teen boy died in a landslide from the storm in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and a man in Port Salut, Haiti, died when the storm crashed through his home, according to Reuters.
More than 6,000 people have fled their homes and sought shelter at 1,000 shelters around the country, according to CNN.
John Hasse, a worker with World Vision in Haiti, said the group was expecting houses to be damaged or leveled by the storm because of poor infrastructure in rural areas.
"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 cinder blocks,” he told USA Today.
As rain and wind descended on the Tiburon Peninsula overnight, the ocean poured into seaside towns, flooding the streets and crops as residents fled, according to Reuters.
"We have gusts of wind hitting the whole area and the people have fled to a shelter," Les Anglais mayor Jean-Claude Despierre told Reuters.
An orphanage in one seaside shanty town, Cite Soleil, was evacuated, with 130 children bussed from the slum to a high school in Port-au-Prince, Reuters said. And 1,000 inmates from four prisons were also evacuated.
The storm comes at a particularly bad time, too, for Haiti: national elections are scheduled to be held on Oct. 9, and the cholera outbreak was expected to increase during October’s rainy season, Reuters said.
The storm is expected to move over Haiti and onto Cuba and the Bahamas later today. It may reach the United States by Thursday.
*Editor's note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that cholera is a mosquito-borne disease.