Rescue workers in Haiti struggled to reach cut off towns and learn the full extent of the death and destruction after the country was battered by Category 4 Hurricane Matthew. By Wednesday evening, officials were reporting that 19 were confirmed dead in Haiti, out of the 25 total storm-related deaths so far reported.
The western tip of Haiti is isolated after a key bridge washed out, roads are impassable and phone communications is down.
There was no full accounting of the dead and injured in Matthew's wake but the UN has called it the worst humanitarian crisis to hit Haiti since the devastating earthquake in 2010. It said 350,000 people need immediate assistance, according to estimates from the Haitian government.
"It's the worst hurricane that I've seen during my life," Fidele Nicolas, a civil protection official in Nippes, told The Associated Press. "It destroyed schools, roads, other structures."
The relief organization Medic Samaritan said there are reports of widespread structural damage, downed trees and severe flooding from Les Cayes north to the city of Jeremie.
"The situation in Les Cayes is catastrophic, the city is flooded, you have trees lying in different places and you can barely move around, the wind has damaged many houses and taken away their rooftops," said Deputy Mayor Marie Claudette Regis Delerme, speaking from the town of about 70,000 people, NBC News reported.
Haiti's electoral council postponed Sunday's presidential election because of the damage, the AP reported.
At least 14 people died in the town of Petit Goave, including a woman who was hit by a falling electrical pole, according to the town's Mayor Jean Samson Limomgy. He said that in addition to the 14 dead, at least 30 people in his town are injured.
Four deaths were also reported in the neighboring Dominican Republic, including three children.
Mourad Wahba, the U.N. secretary-general's deputy special representative for Haiti, said at least 10,000 people were in shelters and hospitals were overflowing.
Aid organizations are scrambling to Haiti to help assess the damage. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced Wednesday an additional $1 million in humanitarian assistance for communities in Haiti affected by the hurricane. This brings total USAID assistance to $1.5 million.
The Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C., said in a statement: "The next few days will be critical to the recovery process of the nation. It is expected that many will want to engage and take initiatives towards recovery and relief efforts. The state of Haiti strongly encourages all individuals who are in the process of organizing specific responses and action plans, to work with the local organizations and institutions in Haiti. To prevent misused time and resources, a coordinated and strategic approach is highly advised."
In Cuba, the hurricane rolled across a sparsely populated tip overnight, destroying dozens of homes in Cuba's easternmost city, Baracoa, and leaving hundreds of others damaged. There were no immediate reports of deaths.
At the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the storm knocked down trees and caused road flooding but no injuries or major damage, said Julie Ripley, a spokeswoman.
The National Hurricane Center is expecting the following rainfall totals:
- Southern Haiti and southwestern Dominican Republic
15 to 25 inches, as much as 40 inches in isolated areas
- Eastern Cuba and northwestern Haiti
8 to 12 inches but isolated areas up to 20 inches
- Eastern Jamaica
Additional 1 to 2 inches with isolated storm totals up to 12 inches
- The Bahamas
8 to 12 inches, isolated 15 inches
- Turks and Caicos Islands
2 to 5 inches, isolated 8 inches
- Northeastern Haiti and the Northern Dominican Republic
1 to 3 inches, isolated 5 inches