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Chaos in Haiti after hurricane, but neighbors help out
By Amelie BARON
Les Cayes, Haiti (AFP) Oct 7, 2016

'Complete destruction' in southern Haiti city: CARE
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Oct 6, 2016 - Haiti's southern city of Jeremie suffered "complete destruction" when it was hammered by Hurricane Matthew, the CARE relief agency said on Thursday.

"It's complete destruction in Jeremie," CARE Haiti country director Jean-Michel Vigreux tweeted. "About 80 percent of the buildings are gone. All phone lines and electricity are gone. Access is completely cut off, and everyone is running out of food and money."

Further south in Les Cayes -- home to a major Haitian port -- an AFP reporter found the cathedral's roof completely blown off.

The city center managed to resist significant damage thanks to its concrete construction, but Matthew's pounding rains and violent wind gusts devastated the Croix-Marche a Terre neighborhood close to the shore. Coconut trees smashed into dozens of houses, destroying many of their flimsy sheet-metal roofs.

The storm also ravaged banana and mango crops in the surrounding fields.

At least 108 people were killed in vulnerable Haiti -- the poorest country in the Americas -- during Matthew's assault, which caused severe damage in several more countries as it blasted through the Caribbean.

The ferocious Category Four hurricane is expected to hit Florida late Thursday. US President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency as residents fled inland.

Harrowing reports emerge from Bahamas as storm smashes through
Nassau, Bahamas (AFP) Oct 7, 2016 - Hurricane Matthew's blast through the Bahamas brought harrowing reports of roofs blown off, windows shattering and water rising perilously, including a social-media post from one desperate resident who said, "I'm on a chest of drawers. Phone battery low."

But there were no reports of fatalities from the National Emergency Management Agency.

After the storm passed and headed northwest towards Florida, residents emerged from their homes to assess the damage, which was not as bad as expected.

Many buildings had roof damage, but the integrity of the roofs and buildings had not been compromised.

Storm surges from Matthew caused several feet of water to come inland but flooding stopped short of entering homes.

Roads were littered with downed power lines and trees. Some were impassable.

The hurricane unleashed winds of nearly 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour) as it traversed the area.

Only those buildings with emergency generators escaped the dark.

Earlier, several residents in western and southern areas of New Providence island, an area vulnerable to sea surges and heavy flooding, ignored repeated warnings to evacuate. The island includes the capital Nassau and is home to two-thirds of the Bahamian population.

A resident in an area southeast of Nassau took to Facebook to plead for emergency rescue.

"Help!" Tamico Gilbert posted shortly before noon. "Water [is] over [the] bed now.

"I'm on a chest of drawers. Phone battery [is] low."

Resort guests at the Beach Tower at Atlantis on Paradise Island were ushered into the ballrooms of a convention center.

One employee, who declined to be named, said she screamed as she heard a loud crashing sound from the glass entrance to the lobby.

"The wind was pushing it and pushing it, and it was shaking. I screamed out as it shattered in the lobby."

Even the weather forecasters at the Nassau airport were told to evacuate their offices. They were loaded into a fire truck and moved to a safer building nearby, where they were able to resume their work.

Hurricane Matthew caused at least 264 deaths in Haiti, news reports said, and widespread destruction in Cuba, to the south of the Bahamas.

Hurricane Matthew left behind chaos in Haiti, with roads cut to several districts and initial reports of more than 264 dead and more hurt or left homeless.

But the disaster was far from the first to hit the western hemisphere's poorest nation, and as Haitians counted their dead Thursday they were also quick to help out their neighbors.

In the Sous-Roche district of Les Cayes, Haiti's third city on its exposed southern coast, Dominique Osny was giving instructions to a friend helping him gather corrugated iron sheets ripped from a roof.

"I've been on my feet for two days without sleep. We need to help each other," he told AFP amid the debris and destruction left when the storm passed through on Tuesday.

"Everyone is a victim here, houses have been washed away, we lost all the roofing. I lost everything, right up to my birth certificate," he said, citing a vital document hard to replace in Haiti.

Sous-Roches Cayes was a quiet beachfront neighborhood of the city before the storm, now drowned in mud and shattered trees.

The river level has begun to drop, but its waters are still mixed with the storm surge that inundated the beach during the hours-long battering by the Category Four storm.

"I thought I was going to die. I looked death in the face," said 36-year-old Yolette Cazenor, standing in front of a house smashed in two by a fallen coconut palm.

Over 10 hours, hurricane-force wind blasts and heavy rain leveled all the crops in the community's fields, promising lean months ahead even by Haiti's impoverished standards.

"I had fields of maize and of chili peppers, and 100 mango trees and a nursery where people could come and buy pre-germinated shoots for their own plots. I lost everything," said Junior Jetro Cherubin.

Cherubin is cheered by the solidarity his neighbors are showing in their misery, but wants the whole of Haiti to stand up as well and right some of the errors of recent history.

"It is time that we work together to re-forest this country and to train people so they know how to build sturdy homes. Otherwise, each natural disaster will be as bad as the last," he said.

- Skeptical of foreign aid -

Haiti's economic decrepitude is likely connected to its disastrous post-colonial legacy of foreign intervention and home-grown corruption.

The country has also had its fair share of natural disasters: Haiti sits on a hurricane path and in January 2010 was hit by a devastating earthquake that demolished much of the capital and left more than 250,000 dead.

Since then the nation has been struggling to overcome a cholera outbreak.

Some of its needs have been met by international aid -- a religious mission Arise Haiti sent a truck to Les Cayes and an American woman was distributing food parcels as AFP visited.

But the large-scale international aid programs in place since the quake have been criticized for failing to build local capacity while spending millions on their own short-term programs.

And ordinary Haitians are skeptical of help from abroad.

"I've never believed in foreign aid. Please, don't come back promising us billions again if nothing is to come of it," said Gedeon Dorfeuille.

"And definitely don't send in the army in again," he declared, recalling how armed US soldiers arrived by helicopter after the earthquake "and then the aid agencies took 80 percent of the cash."

Dorfeuille now believes that Haitians will have to care for themselves, and as the sun went down he was still working with his hammer, repairing roof after roof for his destitute neighbors.

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US coast evacuated as historic hurricane bears down
Miami (AFP) Oct 7, 2016
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