Miami | The United States marked its first four fatalities from Hurricane Matthew as the powerful storm lashed the Florida coast after killing more than 400 people in Haiti, officials have said.
A 58-year-old woman suffered cardiac arrest in her home in central Florida’s St Lucie County overnight, but high winds from Matthew then a major Category Three storm on a five-point scale prevented fire officials from reaching her, a fire spokeswoman told AFP.
“We were unable to respond safely, and unfortunately she died,” said St Lucie County Fire District spokeswoman Catherine Chaney.
In the early morning hours, rescuers also received a call about an 82-year-old man who was experiencing stroke-like symptoms and was having difficulty breathing.
“Again, we could not go because that’s when the winds were high,” Chaney said.
The man was taken in a personal vehicle to a nearby hospital, and fire officials learned later that he died, she said.
At midday Friday, a woman in Volusia County ventured outside to feed some animals during a lull in the storm and was killed by a falling tree, said county manager Jim Dinneen.
Further north up the coast, in Putnam County, another woman trying to “ride out the storm” was killed by a tree after it fell on the trailer, the local sheriff’s office said.
A man that was also in the trailer was able to escape with only minor injuries.
The powerful storm surged through the Caribbean earlier this week, at times as a powerful Category 5 hurricane, leaving a trail of destruction in Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. In addition to the scores killed in Haiti, four died in the Dominican Republic.
Matthew was downgraded to a Category 2 storm on Friday evening as it pummeled the northeastern Florida coast with winds of 175 kilometers per hour. It was moving northward at 12 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said.