Hurricane Matthew has left at least 10 dead in Haiti, a toll that may climb as the authorities re-establish contact with regions cut off by the storm, the interior ministry said.
The Caribbean's worst storm in nearly a decade, Matthew pummeled Haiti with heavy rains and devastating winds that caused untold damage to the Americas' poorest nation.
"It's a very partial toll because we are still receiving information we must take the time to confirm," interior ministry spokesman Guillaume Albert Moleon told AFP, adding that two people have been reported missing.
The tally may rise within hours if the authorities manage to regain contact with the department of Grande Anse after more than 18 hours of silence. "We are very cautious, but can already see the situation seems very concerning," Moleon said, noting that 25 injuries and eight cases of cholera had also been reported.
Initial helicopter observations over the southwestern city of Jeremie found a number of severely damaged houses, major farmland destruction and intense flooding.
Emergency relief operations were hindered after the collapse of a bridge cut off the only road linking Port-au-Prince to the peninsula that makes up southern Haiti.
Overflowing rivers are complicating efforts to bypass the damage. Some 1.5 million people are under evacuation orders in Florida in preparation for mighty Hurricane Matthew to make a direct hit on the state, the governor said today.
Governor Rick Scott described a possibly catastrophic and deadly scenario of huge storm surges, fierce winds, the ocean eating up beaches and other havoc from the storm.
"Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate," Scott told a news conference. "Time is running out." Matthew has already killed 27 people as it barreled its way through the Caribbean, with the Bahamas the last to be hit.
Scott said the forecast is for storm surges of five to nine feet (1.5 to 2.7 meters), not counting the waves on top of that. "Stop and think about that," he said. "Waves will be crashing on your roof if you're right close to where the storm surge is happening and you're close to where the waves are."