The Haitian government drastically raised the death toll on Thursday from Hurricane Matthew, with officials saying that at least 283 people had been killed instead of the half-dozen or so reported initially.
They said the figure was likely to rise further as international aid groups and government agencies began reaching the worst-affected areas in the south, which was slammed by Matthew on Tuesday with 145-mile-per-hour winds and torrential rain.
Since then, much of the southern areas have been essentially in the dark. Communications and even physical access were shut off, as cell service faltered and a bridge connecting the capital to the southern areas collapsed.
But now that transportation and at least some communication has been restored, knowledge about the extent of Matthew’s power, and the deaths caused by it, have become clearer.
“There is severe damage to the communities, and hundreds of deaths are expected and many more injured,” said Enzo di Taranto, the head of the United NationsOffice for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti. “There will be a severe impact on the environment, agriculture and water systems.”
“Schools, hospitals and police stations, everything that was there when the hurricane hit was in some way damaged, because of the strengths of the wind,” Mr. di Taranto said.
On Wednesday, officials said the hurricane’s damage had forced them to postpone an already-delayed presidential election set for Sunday in the country of 11 million, poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
Matthew left a broad tableau of devastation: houses pummeled into timber, crops destroyed and stretches of towns and villages under several feet of water.
The hurricane aftermath has already turned into a slow-rolling menace that could affect many more Haitians in the coming weeks and months.
The aftermath also is reminding Haitians of questions that still haunt the country from the 2010 earthquake, when international aid groups practically usurped the role of the government.
The government has been clear that this time around it will take the lead on coordinating aid, as donors bring in fresh water, food and money. But that, too, has its limitations.
The current government is an interim administration that was to be replaced in the Sunday election. There is no word on when that vote will be rescheduled.