Hurricane Matthew has killed at least 39 people, the death toll in struggling Haiti alone rising to 35, local officials said, as the storm headed northward on Thursday battering the Bahamas en route to Florida.
Haiti’s civil protection service put the toll in the impoverished Caribbean nation at 23 dead, many killed by falling trees, flying debris and swollen rivers. The interior ministry and a local mayor confirmed 12 other deaths to Reuters across Haiti.
Four people were killed earlier in neighboring Dominican Republic.
Matthew is the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since Felix struck in 2007. On Tuesday and Wednesday it whipped Cuba and Haiti with 140 mile-per-hour winds and torrential rain, pummeling towns and destroying livestock, crops and homes.
The devastation in Haiti prompted authorities to postpone a presidential election originally planned for Sunday.
In the meantime, city officials in Charleston, South Carolina, which weathered Category 4 Hurricane Hugo almost 30 years ago, say the city has run out of sandbags after distributing more than for any other storm. The city has distributed more than 15,000 sandbags as residents prepare for Hurricane Matthew. There were long lines of motorists waiting to get sandbags at one distribution point on the city’s north side late Wednesday.
Charleston is prone to flooding even in summer thunderstorms and if people need to sandbags now, they will have to get them at hardware or home stores.
The upscale community of Kiawah Island southwest of Charleston plans to close at noon Thursday when officials barricade the entrance to the gated community. Fire and emergency equipment will be moved to the mainland.