Hurricane Matthew death toll climbs to 264 in Haiti

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — More than 200 people have died in Haiti as Hurricane Matthew swept through the country, flooding houses and displacing hundreds of thousands.

A young man walks on a palm tree in front of a destroyed house after Hurricane Matthew, in Croix Marche-a-Terre, in Southwest Haiti, on October 6, 2016. (HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)

A young man walks on a palm tree in front of a destroyed house after Hurricane Matthew, in Croix Marche-a-Terre, in Southwest Haiti, on October 6, 2016. (HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)

The storm is set to be the worst humanitarian disaster to hit Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people, a United National official said.

The death toll in Haiti had reached 264 as of Thursday night, according to Civil Protection Service spokesman Joseph Edgard Celestin.

At least five other deaths were reported in other Caribbean countries — four people in the Dominican Republic and a teenage boy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said.

The devastation was especially brutal in southern Haiti, where winds of 125 mph (200 kph) destroyed homes, flooded villages and cut off the island from the rest of the country.

National Route 2, which connects Port-au-Prince with Haiti’s southern peninsula, broke apart when the bridge collapsed, the country’s civil protection agency said.

In the wake of the storm, the Electoral Commission postponed the country’s presidential election, which had been scheduled for Sunday. A new date has not been set.

“The urgent need we’re focusing on right now is food, safe drinking water and … things like plastic sheeting, hygiene kits and so forth,” said Tim Callaghan,assistance response team leader for the US Agency for International Development in Haiti. “We’re in the most critical phase to support people.”

Officials in the US have urged more than 2 million people to evacuate ahead of the storm, which is expected to make landfall in Florida early Friday. The storm is expected to land in the US as a Category 4 hurricane, packing 145 mph winds and the potential for “catastrophic” damage, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents that “this storm will kill you,” and told them to evacuate before its too late. Along with 1.5 million people in Florida, residents along the coast in Georgia and South Carolina have also been warned to evacuate.

Hurricane Matthew hit the Bahamas on Thursday, where it is expected to cause flooding and “life-threatening” storm surges.