Haitians steadfast in face of Hurricane Matthew

  • 04/10/2016
A satellite image of category 4 Hurricane Matthew (Getty)
A satellite image of category 4 Hurricane Matthew (Getty)

Hurricane Matthew is edging closer to Haiti, bringing 209km/h winds and torrential rain that could wreak havoc in the Caribbean nation, but some 2000 people in one coastal town are refusing to evacuate.

The centre of Matthew, a violent Category 4 storm, is expected to near southwestern Haiti and Jamaica on Monday night (local time), the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Crawling north toward Haiti's Les Cayes, Jamaica and Cuba at 10km/h, the storm could be just as slow leaving, giving its winds and rain more time to cause damage.

The storm comes at a bad time for Haiti. The poorest country in the Americas is set to hold a long-delayed presidential election next Sunday.

A combination of weak government and precarious living conditions make the country particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. More than 200,000 people were killed when a magnitude 7 earthquake struck in 2010.

Matthew is expected to produce between 38 to 101cm of rain in parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, forming potentially fatal flash floods and landslides, the NHC said.

In Jamaica, dawn broke on Monday to reveal partially blue skies and only a slight breeze, making it harder for officials to convince some of the vulnerable to evacuate.

Charles Bernimolin, the team leader of a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) delegation that had flown into Kingston, remained worried, despite projections that showed the storm sparing Jamaica the worst of its fury.

In Cuba, which Matthew is due to reach on Tuesday, evacuation operations were well underway, with most tourists in the eastern town of Santiago de Cuba moved inland and given instructions on where to shelter in hotels during the hurricane.

In Haiti, some streets were already flooded in Les Cayes, a town of about 70,000 people.

But Haitian officials said about 2000 residents of the La Savane neighbourhood of Les Cayes refused to heed government calls to leave their seaside homes, even though they were just a few miles from where the centre of the hurricane is forecast to make landfall.

Poor Haitians are at times reluctant to leave their homes in the face of impending storms, fearing their belongings will be stolen.