The federal government has deployed a team to Haiti to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew and determine what assistance Canada can provide.
“The team is in the field right now, so we will wait for their recommendation before we take any more specific action,” International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said Thursday.
The assessment is expected to take several days. In the meantime, Bibeau said, the government has set aside $3 million to provide immediate assistance whenever the United Nations or Canadian Red Cross make a specific request.
Haiti’s death toll jumped late Thursday after rescue crews began reaching remote corners cut off when Hurricane Matthew slammed into the country’s southwest peninsula, the first Category 4 storm to hit Haiti in more than a half century.
At least 283 people died in just one part of Haiti’s southwest, the region that bore the brunt of the storm, Emmanuel Pierre, an Interior Ministry co-ordinator in Les Cayes, told The Associated Press.
The overall death toll in Haiti is not clear. Shortly before Pierre spoke, the headquarters for Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency had put the number of confirmed deaths for the whole country at 122.
Authorities expect the number of deaths to rise, with mayors and other local officials in marooned areas reporting higher numbers. Most deaths are thought to have occurred in the southwest region.
Bodies started to appear as waters receded in some places two days after Matthew’s 145 mph (235 kph) winds smashed concrete walls, flattened palm trees and tore roofs off homes, forcing thousands of Haitians to flee.
Those killed in Haiti included a woman and her 6-year-old daughter who frantically abandoned their flimsy home and headed to a nearby church to seek shelter as Matthew surged in early Tuesday, said Ernst Ais, mayor of the town of Cavaillon.
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Before hitting Haiti, the storm was blamed for four deaths in the Dominican Republic, one in Colombia and one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Haiti’s government has estimated at least 350,000 people need some kind of assistance.
In Cuba, Matthew blew across that island’s sparsely populated eastern tip Tuesday night, destroying dozens of homes and damaging hundreds in the island’s easternmost city, Baracoa. But the government oversaw the evacuation of nearly 380,000 people and strong measures were taken to protect communities and infrastructure, U.N. officials said.
The storm, which has since moved north and is approaching Florida, is latest in a string of natural disasters to hit the Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.
In addition to hurricanes, the island country has been hit by deadly flooding and a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed at least 100,000 people.
Canada sent two naval vessels, six helicopters, transport aircraft and 2,000 military personnel to help in the aftermath of the earthquake. Canadians also donated $222 million in response to the quake.
The U.S. military announced late Tuesday that it was sending about 150 troops to provide disaster relief in Haiti, with more assistance standing ready if required.