Matthew reaches hurricane force, one dead in St Vincent

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(Reuters) Tropical Storm Matthew strengthened to a hurricane yesterday after triggering flooding and landslides on eastern Caribbean islands that killed one person, and was forecast to grow more powerful as it heads toward Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba.

Tropical Storm Matthew’s heavy rains caused flooding and overflowed rivers. The photo at left, shows the situation at one bridge. (Photo credit: Ĵòjô Bäê via iWitness News.) At right, occupants of this house escaped unhurt when this wall collapsed last night. (Photo credit: iWitness News)
Tropical Storm Matthew’s heavy rains caused flooding and overflowed rivers. The photo at left, shows the situation at one bridge. (Photo credit: Ĵòjô Bäê via iWitness News.) At right, occupants of this house escaped unhurt when this wall collapsed last night. (Photo credit: iWitness News)

Packing winds of up to 75 mph (120 kmh), Matthew was about 150 miles (240 km) northeast of Curacao and traveling westward, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Matthew whipped through the Caribbean islands of Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Wednesday, shutting international airports, ripping down power lines and trees, and forcing residents into shelters.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told reporters one death had been reported in connection with the storm. He said there were 350 people in shelters in his country. In St. Lucia, floods and landslides threatened villages, sending some residents into shelters.

The storm is expected to veer off its westerly path and head north to Jamaica and Haiti on Sunday, bringing winds as strong as 100 mph (160 kph), the Miami-based hurricane centre said.

Some projections show Matthew reaching the U.S. Eastern seaboard next week, but forecasters warned it was difficult to predict the course so far ahead of time.

Meanwhile, according to a press release from Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), a report from the National Emergency Operations Centre stated that Barbados experienced flooding and fallen trees and poles in some areas. One house was completely destroyed in Dominica, while flash flooding, landslides, blocked roads and down power lines were reported. St Vincent and the Grenadines experienced some road infrastructure damage, heavy rains, gusty winds and several rivers rising and overflowing. The release stated that St Lucia suffered major flooding in all quadrants overnight and power outages in several communities. The Water and Sewerage Company treatment and distribution plants have been affected by the power outages, while Soufriere Hospital was relocated to the Environmental Health Building at Deliau Street, Wingsville following flooding.

According to the release, the ‘All Clear’ was issued for impacted States and Initial Damage Assessments and Needs Analysis teams were deployed. No immediate needs have been identified by the impacted States.

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