Hurricane Matthew: Cholera expected after Haiti water supply hit

People stand next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passed Jeremie (Reuters)
People stand next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passed Jeremie (Reuters)

Health officials in Haiti are preparing for a likely surge in cholera cases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which severely damaged water supplies and sanitation systems in the Caribbean nation.

The storm has killed at least 339 people in Haiti, including dozens in one coastal town that authorities and rescue workers were only beginning to reach days after the powerful storm.

The number was given by a meeting of emergency workers including representatives from the government, the United Nations and international aid agencies, which Reuters attended.

Many victims were killed by falling trees, flying debris and swollen rivers when Matthew hit with 230kph winds on Tuesday.

Haiti's civil protection service has so far put the toll in the impoverished Caribbean nation at 339 dead, but was expected to update that figure by Friday.

Most of the fatalities were in towns and fishing villages around the western end of Tiburon peninsula in the country's southwest, one of Haiti's most picturesque regions. The storm passed directly through the peninsula, driving the sea inland and flattening homes on Monday and Tuesday.

"Several dozen" died in the coastal town of Les Anglais in Sud Department, said Louis Paul Raphael, the central government's representative in the region.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Raphael.

Les Anglais was the first to be hit by Matthew and has since been out of contact. Just before the storm hit, the mayor told Reuters that people were fleeing their houses in panic as the sea surged into town.

A few kilometres south in Port-a-Piment village, Mayor Jean-Raymond Pierre-Louis said 25 people died. Farther south still, 24 died in the village of Roche-a-Bateau.

In Grand Anse Department, also on the storm's destructive path but on the other side of the peninsula, 38 more lost their lives.

Along with the human devastation, the storm killed livestock.

Matthew is the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since Felix in 2007 and was moving toward Florida as a Category 4 cyclone, the second strongest on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.

Four people were killed over the weekend in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.