Haiti announces three days of mourning for hundreds of hurricane dead

Haiti on Saturday announced three days of national mourning for the hundreds of people killed by Hurricane Matthew earlier this week.

"The days of mourning have been called to unite the country in the pain of the parents and friends of the dead," the president's office said.

Night clubs and other establishments were to remain closed for the mourning period, which was to begin on Sunday, while flags were to be lowered to half-mast.

Haitian civil defence officials said Saturday 336 people had been killed, four were missing and 211 were injured in the hurricane, which struck on Tuesday and devastated wide areas of the already impoverished country.

Some media reports put the death toll much higher but an exact figure has been difficult to establish as the worst-hit regions in the south-west remain cut off.

Rescuers on the scene told dpa by telephone that they expected the body count to rise.

Despite calls to evacuate a lot of people apparently chose to stay in their homes for fear of looters.

Matthew struck Haiti as a category-4 hurricane - the second highest on a scale of five - packing winds of up to 230 kilometres an hour, flattening houses and destroying roads and infrastructure.

"More than 1,000 houses were flooded, hundreds completely destroyed," said General Ajax Porto Pinheiro, commander of the UN stabilization mission to Haiti after flying over the affected area.

"Coconut palms have been uprooted, banana plantations destroyed - it's also an environmental catastrophe," he said.

Most people in the area live off agriculture, meaning the storm has ruined their livelihoods.

"The danger of epidemics is very high," Alexander Mauz, project coordinator for the German charity Workers' Samaritan Federation, told dpa by telephone from the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.

"People have to be supplied with clean drinking water as quickly as possible," he said.

The US military on Saturday airlifted supplies to the badly hit towns of Jeremie and Les Cayes and UN soldiers have been trying to clear roads. US organization USAID plans to fly in 480 tonnes of supplies.

Cuba, Colombia and Venezuela have also sent aid as well as medical staff.

According to UN figures, 350,000 people are in need of aid.

Last update: Sun, 09/10/2016 - 09:51

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