At least 136 people have died in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew rocked the impoverished island nation on Tuesday. An additional four people were killed in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
The Category 4 hurricane carried winds reaching 140 mph/220 kph, which devastated the northwestern region of the island chain, Reuters reported. The storm began moving towards the southeastern United States on Thursday, destroying homes and roads throughout the Bahaman capital of Nassau in its path.
According to the Haitian Minister of the Interior, Francois Anick Joseph, over 28,000 homes have been severely damaged while 21,000 people have been displaced. Power and phone lines have been destroyed, completely cutting off victims’ access to electricity and means of communication.
“What we know is that many, many houses have been damaged. Some lost rooftops and they’ll have to be replaced while others were totally destroyed,” he said.
“Everybody’s house is destroyed, the people can’t eat and have to drink coconut water to sustain them,” Les Cayes Senator Francky Exius said to the Miami Herald newspaper.
Many of the deaths have been attributed to falling trees and debris and severe flooding.
As the storm approaches the southeastern United States, authorities in Florida have urged 1.5 million people to evacuate their homes, while President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in Florida.
“If you’re reluctant to evacuate, just think about all the people…already killed,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott on Thursday. “Time is running out. This is clearly either going to have a direct hit or come right along the coast, and we’re going to have hurricane-force winds.”
At the time of reporting, over 3000 Floridians have been placed in shelters throughout the southern state, according to Reuters.