Haiti Mourns Hurricane Dead as Matthew Dwindles
People gather around flowers and candles as they pay respects to the victims of a carnival float that hit power lines, at the site of the accident in Port-au-Prince. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
Port-au-Prince: Haiti began three days of mourning on Sunday for victims of Hurricane Matthew as relief officials grappled with the unfolding devastation in the Caribbean country's hard-hit south.
Matthew, meanwhile, lost its hurricane status, subsiding to a "post-tropical cyclone" after cutting a swath from Florida to South Carolina that left nine dead.
At 1200 GMT, the storm was still packing winds that gusted to hurricane strength as it moved away from the US coastline.
But attention was shifting back to Haiti, the Americas' poorest country and one shattered by a 2010 earthquake and ravaged by a cholera epidemic.
Aerial footage from the hardest-hit towns in southern Haiti showed a ruined landscape of metal shanties with roofs blown away, downed trees everywhere and mud from overflowing rivers covering the ground.
Civil defense officials put the death toll at 336, although some officials said it topped 400.
Interim President Jocelerme Privert declared three days of national mourning for the dead.
As the death toll climbed, pledges of aid flooded in, with the United States announcing it was sending a Navy ship, the USS Mesa Verde, whose 300 Marines will add to the 250 personnel and nine helicopters already ordered to deploy to Haiti.
France announced it was sending 60 troops, with 32 tonnes of humanitarian supplies and water purification equipment.
California-based charity International Relief Teams said it was donating $7 million in medical supplies with international organizations MAP International and Hope for Haiti.
In the United States, coastal flooding from the storm surge posed the biggest threat to life and property.
"The combination of a dangerous storm surge, the tide, and large and destructive waves will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline," the NHC said.
Matthew made landfall southeast of McClellanville, South Carolina, on Saturday as a weakened Category 1 storm, but it triggered serious inland flooding.
Millions of Americans were subject to evacuation orders and curfews were slapped on cities as the lethal storm barreled north after storming through Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas.
President Barack Obama had declared federal states of emergency in Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.
More than a million people were left without power, which was slowly being restored.
In Jacksonville Beach, Sam Vond, a 68-year-old retiree, calmly rode his bike along the shore Saturday.
"It wasn't that bad. I didn't go outside. We stayed in the house until we were told it was OK to get out. Luckily, no damage to my house, so I'm happy," he said.
Matthew damaged roofs at the Kennedy Space Center but spared Florida's heavily populated south-central coast a direct hit.
Cities including Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston ordered dusk-to-dawn curfews to keep people off the streets and guard against looting.