Hurricane Matthew heads to sea as Haiti buries its dead
US focuses on clean-up as officials warn of possible deadly flooding in coming days
Local residents walk on a part of closed A1A highway washed out by Hurricane Matthew in Flagler Beach, Florida, on October 9th, 2016. Photograph: Jewel Samad/EPA/Getty
Officials in several US states warned that deadly flooding could continue as rain swollen rivers crest in coming days.
Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday after its rampage through the Caribbean killed 1,000 people in Haiti. In the United States, the death toll rose to at least 19 people.
While power was being restored in some areas, 1.6 million people were without power in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Virginia, down Sunday’s peak of 2.2 million. Officials were working to clear streets of downed trees and abandoned vehicles.
With five people reported missing and rivers rising, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said he expected the death toll to rise. Eight people in the state were known to have died so far.
McCrory said several swelling rivers were expected to hit record levels and would not crest for days.
“Hurricane Matthew is off the map, but it is still with us and it is still deadly,” he said.
The National Weather Service said “life-threatening flooding,” will continue Monday over eastern portions of the state.
Many coastal and inland communities remained under water, either from coastal storm surge or overrun rivers and creeks.
Flash flood risks
All 2,000 residents of Princeville, the oldest town in the United States incorporated by African Americans, were told on Sunday to evacuate due to flash flood risks. The town lies on the Tar River about 40 km (25 miles) north of Greenville.
Swiftwater rescue teams are still on alert and there have been 255 water rescue calls and 701 people rescued.
Jake Williams, a resident of Florence, said on early Monday that his power had been out since Saturday morning.
“Trees are down in every neighbourhood on almost every road,” he said, adding “I am no weather man, but would guess that the gusts of wind were near 100 mph (160 km), and with soggy ground a lot trees couldn’t stand up to it.”
In Virginia Beach, the city said it had received over 33 cm (13 inches) of rain and 55,000 people remained without power on Sunday night. The city said that some 200 vehicles were abandoned and many roads remained impassable.
Norfolk, which declared a state of emergency, said efforts were under way to clear streets of debris and abandoned vehicles with city offices, libraries and recreational centres set to re-open Monday.
Haiti started burying some of its dead in mass graves in the wake of Hurricane
Matthew, a government official said on Sunday, as cholera spread in the devastated southwest and the death toll from the storm rose to 1,000 people.
Authorities had to start burying the dead in mass graves in Jeremie because the bodies were starting to decompose, said Kedner Frenel, the most senior central government official in the Grand’Anse region on Haiti’s western peninsula.
Frenel said there was great concern about cholera spreading, and that authorities were focused on getting water, food and medication to the thousands of people living in shelters. Cholera causes severe diarrhoea and can kill within hours if untreated. It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.
The storm centre was about 320 km (200 miles) off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and heading away from land, according to the National Hurricane Center’s Sunday 9pm Irish time (5pm local time) report.
It discontinued all tropical storm warnings.
The storm still packed hurricane force winds as far as 150km (90 miles) from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds 390km (240 miles) away.
US president Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Georgia and Florida, freeing up federal money to help the states repair damaged infrastructure and remove debris.
Mr McCrory said 334 rescue workers risked their lives carrying out 877 rescues overnight.