As Hurricane Matthew continued to wreak havoc on the Southern parts of the U.S., the small country of Haiti endured massive devastation. NBC News reports that at least 800 people have lost their lives due to the disastrous storm, according to Haiti’s civil protection agency.
The United Nations warned than more than a million people were directly affected by the hurricane and that some 350,000 people were in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
“We have nothing left,” Saintful Jean Perpetu, who lives in the storm-ravaged town of Jeremie, told reporters. “Our personal things, important documents like birth certificates — it’s all gone. We sleep on streets with our children and nobody came to help us until now.”
The monstrous storm, Perpetu said, literally “took shirts from our backs.”
More than 60,000 Haitians are still in shelters and local officials warned the death toll could rise as the waters recede and rescue workers retrieve the living and the dead from several homes that were reduced to ruins.
Hurricane Flora, another Category 4 storm that hit Haiti in 1963, killed over 8,000 people.
“Devastation is everywhere,” Pilus Enor, mayor of Camp Perrin, a town near the port city of Les Cayes, said. “Every house has lost its roof. All the plantations have been destroyed.”
Just nine of Haiti’s 15 largest hospitals were operating and “five are unreachable by phone or radio,” the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported. The Les Cayes Hospital was evacuated ahead of the storm.
Since 2010, more than 9,300 people have died in Haiti for cholera, a disease the PAHO warned could surge “due to massive flooding and the impact on water and sanitation infrastructure.”
The U.S. has already started airlifting assistance to the region, and the German government has already pledged $7 million in aid money to help Haiti rebuild.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. For many years, disaster has struck its impoverished land. In addition to hurricanes, the island was rocked by a catastrophic earthquake in 2010 that left 220,000 people dead and 1.5 million others homeless. The quake caused an estimated $14 billion in damage.
“Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world,” Obama said. “It has consistently been hit and battered by a lot of natural disasters to compound what is already great poverty there. We know that hundreds of people have lost their lives and that there’s been severe property damage and they’re going to need help rebuilding.”