By Elizabeth Roberts and Ray Sanchez, CNN
Rescue workers in Haiti warned Thursday that the death toll from Hurricane Matthew could rise as they worked to establish the full extent of the damage.
“The most concerning thing is we really don’t have a full picture. We don’t have all the information we need in order to see how bad it is,” said Christy Delafield, a communications officer with Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid agency.
“This is due to a bridge being out,” she said. “There have been landslides and the cell phone service has been unreliable. We need to get to the south of the country,” she added.
Matthew made landfall in Haiti as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday. More than 250 people have been confirmed dead, as of Thursday night local time.
Homes lay in ruins after the passing of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, Thursday, October 6. Two days after the storm rampaged across the country’s remote southwestern peninsula, authorities and aid workers still lack a clear picture of what they fear is the country’s biggest disaster in years.
On Thursday, Civil Protection Service spokesman Joseph Edgard Celestin said the death toll does not take into account potential loss of life in the far southwest of the country, which has not been assessed due to “communication issues.”
“What we are realizing, as we are going further … is that there’s been a lot of devastation and a lot of damage and probably a lot more than what we had initially assessed,” said Ariane Quentier, spokeswoman for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti.
The hurricane exacted a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, agriculture, and houses.
An estimated 350,000 people have been affected, with 15,623 displaced people living in shelters, according to officials.
Haitians wait to cross the river n Petit Goave where a bridge collapsed cutting off a main route to the devastated south of the country
In southern Haiti, winds of 125 mph (200 kph) destroyed homes, flooded villages and cut off the island from the rest of the country.
The main road that connects the capital, Port-au-Prince, with Haiti’s devastated southern peninsula, broke apart when a bridge collapsed Tuesday, severely hampering relief efforts.
On Thursday, the bridge, which spans the Rivière la Digue in Petit-Goâve, southwest of the capital, became partially passable as the waters subsided.
“Some vehicles are going over it but the number that can do that is very limited,” Delafield said. “Our team are going to have a go today.”
She said Port-au-Prince has not suffered such bad damage as the south, although some neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city have been flooded.
Tim Callaghan, assistance response team leader for the US Agency for International Development in Haiti, said much of the damage in Haiti’s hardest hit areas — the southwestern cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie — appeared to be structural, and not the result of heavy rainfall.
“The urgent need we’re focusing on right now is food, safe drinking water and … things like plastic sheeting, hygiene kits and so forth,” he said.
“We’re in the most critical phase to support people.”