Update: On Thursday afternoon, officials announced that the Hurricane Matthew death toll had risen to more than 260 people. Earlier Thursday, it had been announced that it had risen to more than 100 people as the storm heads toward the United States, but that count quickly increased. Several areas of Haiti were devastated, with ABC News reporting that a pilot said in some places, barely "1 percent of houses are standing." Relief efforts are ongoing.
Earlier: For the past few days, Hurricane Matthew has been making its way through the Caribbean archipelago, crossing through the island nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republican in the process, and leaving a trail of destruction. Lethal destruction, sad to say: according to NBC News, Hurricane Matthew has killed at least 25 people so far, and with the category four storm heading toward the Florida coast, the calamity is far from over.
According to the NBC News report, public officials have confirmed that at least 19 people have been killed by Matthew in Haiti, with another four confirmed dead in the Dominican Republic. Two more deaths have been reported in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the northeastern coast of Colombia, as well.
As it stands now, Matthew is moving northwards toward the American eastern seaboard, and some projections suggest it could hit Florida by early Friday morning. Needless to say, this is already a significant public health emergency, and the storm has prompted calls for relief and recovery aid in some of the worst-hit locations — at the time of this writing, Haiti has undoubtedly been hit the worst, as the high death toll suggests. As USA Today reported, as many as 10,000 Haitians may be living in shelters in the aftermath of the storm.
The big questions going forward are twofold: how will the world help Haiti and other affected nations recover, and how much force will Matthew still have if and when it hits the United States? Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already cautioned residents of his state to prepare for a "direct hit," the likes of which would likely be the worst storm in the Sunshine State in nearly a decade — there hasn't been a major hurricane there since Wilma on Oct. 24, 2005, 11 years ago.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has followed suit, first urging residents along near the shore of her state to evacuate and seek safer shelter further inland, and subsequently issuing an evacuation order for a number coastal communities, as well as ordering local schools closed. In short, if you're living in Florida, Georgia, or the Carolinas, it's of the utmost importance that you pay close attention to Matthew's trajectory, think seriously about whether you should take additional precautions, and leave yourself enough time to evacuate or find safe shelter should need be. Hopefully, it won't hit too hard, and the already too-high death toll stops right where it is.