The stark reality of covering Hurricane Matthew in Haiti

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What it was like to cover Hurricane Matthew in Haiti
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What it was like to cover Hurricane Matthew in Haiti
Marie Lestin (L), 34, poses for a photo next to her children in front of their new house after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
People walk on a street next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo 
A child plays inside a broken water tank after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo 
Haitian soldiers shoot in the air to try to control the crowd as they wait for food to be handed out after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo 
A woman prepares to sleep on the floor next to her baby in a partially destroyed school used as a shelter after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo 
People fight while they assail a truck to try to get food after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo 
A child is being treated at the cholera treatment center at the hospital after Hurricane Matthew passes in Jeremie, Haiti, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo 
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JEREMIE, HAITI (Reuters) - The Haitian city of Jeremie was completely destroyed.

With a bird's eye view from inside a plane, I could see that not one house was left with a roof, clothes were scattered everywhere and people picked through debris.

Hurricane Matthew had hit Haiti hard, and I was there to photograph the storm's aftermath.

When I first arrived, I checked into a hotel in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and waited for the hurricane to pass. My job, after checking on any damage there, was to try to pinpoint the areas in the western corner of the country that took a direct hit from the storm.

SEE ALSO: Haitians vulnerable on Mexico-U.S. border as migrant crisis escalates

I went to the capital's airport to catch a flight to Les Cayes, close to where the hurricane had made landfall. It was closed to private flights. AID organizations and the U.S. military told me there would be flights only in the coming days.

Then I met a local pilot who was flying his mechanic to Jeremie, roughly 117 miles from Port-au-Prince, so he could check on his family.

He invited me to join them on his four-seater Cessna but said he would just drop off the mechanic and fly back to Port-au-Prince.

The pilot didn't know if Jeremie had been hit by the hurricane but he knew the eye of Matthew had passed nearby.

We stayed at the airport for 15 minutes. I took as many pictures as I could before we flew back to the capital. This was a trip I'd make several times until a local pastor invited me to stay at his home in Jeremie.

Shooting from the Cessna wasn't easy. The windows were very small and there was a lot of reflection.

In Port-au-Prince, I'd edit pictures and charge my gear. A bottle of hand sanitizer was always with me; getting sick wasn't an option.

Many visits to the hospital units where people were being treated for cholera, one of Matthew's worst repercussions, made me acutely aware of my health.

For me, the biggest challenge was facing the people in Jeremie. They told me they were hungry and needed help.

See more of Hurricane Matthew's aftermath:

28 PHOTOS
Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, Cuba
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Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, Cuba
A man cuts branches off fallen trees in a flooded area by a river after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A woman stans by debris after the passage of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man fixes a roof of a partially built house after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Siline Crossaint poses for portrait inside her house, after Hurricane Matthew passes Cite-Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A Haitian migrant is seen as a child rests inside a shelter, after leaving Brazil, where they were relocated to due to Haiti's 2010 earthquake, in Mexicali, Mexico, October 5, 2016. Picture taken October 5, 2016 REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Haitian migrant walks near garbage at the Hotel del Migrante shelter after leaving Brazil, where she relocated to after Haiti's 2010 earthquake, in Mexicali, Mexico, October 5, 2016. Picture taken October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Isma Nadenje poses for a portrait inside her house, after Hurricane Matthew passes Cite-Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A girl cries as she stays with her relatives at a partially destroyed school after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A man stands next to a destroyed house after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People walk down the streets next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A flooded river is seen after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People walk down the street next to destroyed houses and fallen trees after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A worker removes branches from the ground at the airport after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man works with damaged property in the Carbonera community of Guantanamo, Cuba following Hurricane Matthew, October 5, 2016. The storm slammed into Haiti and Cuba as a Category Four hurricane on October 4, 2016 but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). Its winds were howling at 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour). / AFP / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Children are seen before damaged property in the Carbonera community of Guantanamo, Cuba following Hurricane Matthew, October 5, 2016. The storm slammed into Haiti and Cuba as a Category Four hurricane on October 4, 2016 but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). Its winds were howling at 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour). / AFP / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
A man is carried across the river La Digue in Petit Goave where the bridge collapsed during the rains of the Hurricane Matthew, southwest of Port-au-Prince, October 5, 2016. Haiti and the eastern tip of Cuba -- blasted by Matthew on October 4, 2016 -- began the messy and probably grim task of assessing the storm's toll. Matthew hit them as a Category Four hurricane but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center. / AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
A boat is seen inside a destroyed house next to the sea after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Part of a boat is seen on a street next to the sea after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Residents walk on a street after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man clears debris after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man cleans out the water from his flooded house after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Women sit at the entrance of a house damaged by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man walks in a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents observe an overflowing Guaso river in the Guantanamo province, on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken on October 5, 2016 showing the state in which a road between Guantanamo and Baracoa was left after the passage of Hurricane Matthew through the eastern tip of Cuba on Tuesday afternoon. Hurricane Matthew, the Caribbean's worst storm in nearly a decade, barreled towards the Bahamas Wednesday morning after killing nine people and pummeling Haiti and Cuba. / AFP / Yamil LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of two siblings who died when a landslide knocked the walls of their house down during the passage of Hurricane Matthew, sits in the window of a house in the neighbourhood of Capotillo, in Santo Domingo on October 4, 2016. Matthew, a Category Four hurricane, slammed into the Dominican Republic and Haiti Tuesday, triggering major floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of the storm that has claimed at least three lives in each country. / AFP / afp / Erika SANTELICES (Photo credit should read ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images)
A child stands on a street, after Hurricane Matthew passes Cite-Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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I tried to explain that the only help I could give them were my photographs to show what their lives had become.

A local man helped me with the translation, telling them that this was the only help I could give, that I had no money or food, only photographs to show the world and the hope for a quick response to help them.

A family I'd previously met wanted me to see their new home - a shack composed of zinc sheets with six people living in one tiny room. But they were proud; they were starting all over again. It almost made me cry.

I approached a tearful woman who was standing on the corner of a street near the harbor and asked if she was OK. She said she was but that she had lost everything and didn't know how to gather the strength to begin again.

I saw an old man, maybe 80 years old, sitting at a desk outside what was left of his home. He was alone, no family, no friends, no food and no energy to do anything. He looked like he was waiting for life to end right there and then.

In the same city, a young boy played inside a broken water tank.

Harsh reality marks you. Seeing people trying to survive without mere basics.

It's maddening to see how slow aid seems to arrive and how difficult recovery can be.

I'm convinced of the power of photographs.

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