Deadly Hurricane Matthew soaks southeastern U.S. coast

Deadly Hurricane Matthew soaks southeastern U.S. coast

Hurricane Matthew's winds diminished on Saturday as it headed towards the Carolinas after killing almost 900 people in Haiti and causing major flooding and widespread power outages in the southeastern United States, Reuters reported.

The storm, which left flooding and wind damage in Florida, was soaking coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday, but packing a diminished punch. Wind speeds had dropped to less than 85 miles per hour (135 kph), making it a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest on the Saffir-Simpson scale of 1 to 5.

At least four deaths in Florida were attributed to the storm, which knocked out power to least 1.5 million households and businesses in the southeastern United States.

In Florida, 775,000 are still without power, according to state utilities, while in South Carolina 433,000 had no power, Governor Nikki Haley said. Georgia Power said at least 275,000 were without power in the state.

Roads in Jackson Beach were littered with wood, including sections of a historic quarter-mile-long pier, and foot-deep (15 cm) water clogged some intersections. Moderate damage could be seen on beach front businesses, with fences and awnings torn down.

"We rode out the storm. It wasn't this bad at our house, but here there's a lot of damage," said Zowi Cuartas, 18, as he watched people pick up shattered wooden signs knocked down by the wind and waves near the beach. "We were prepared to lose our house."

Streets in downtown Charleston were flooding Saturday morning up to the tops of tires on some cars. At the High Battery at Charleston peninsula's tip, waves were close to topping the sea wall with spray splashing onto East Bay Street.

"It blew like hell," said resident and writer Roger Pinckney, 70.

The toll in the United States was far less devastating than in Haiti, where at least 877 people were killed, a death toll that ticked up as information trickled in from remote areas, according to a Reuters tally of tolls from officials.

Matthew rampaged through Haiti's western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. Some 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said, after the storm hurled the sea into fragile coastal villages.

The Mesa Verde, a U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship, was en route to Haiti to support relief efforts. The ship has heavy-lift helicopters, bulldozers, fresh-water delivery vehicles and two surgical operating rooms.

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