More than 800 dead from Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, Florida coast hit

CHANTAL, Haiti/COCOA BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - Hurricane Matthew killed more than 800 people and left tens of thousands homeless in its rampage through Haiti earlier this week before it lashed Florida on Friday with rain and howling winds and rolled northward up the U.S. Atlantic coast.

The number of fatalities in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, surged to at least 842 on Friday as information trickled in from remote areas previously cut off by the storm, according to a Reuters tally of death tolls given by officials.

SEE ALSO: Hurricane Matthew and the 2016 election: How the storm could affect the vote in Florida

Matthew, the first major hurricane that could hit the United States head on in more than a decade, triggered mass evacuations along the coast from Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina.

Southern Florida escaped the brunt of the storm overnight, but U.S. President Barack Obama and other officials urged people not to get complacent in the face of a storm that could be the most severe to strike northeast Florida in more than 100 years.

Click through aftermath of Hurricane Matthew:

28 PHOTOS
Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, Cuba
See Gallery
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
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"I just want to emphasize to everybody that this is still a really dangerous hurricane, that the potential for storm surge, loss of life and severe property damage exists," Obama told reporters after a briefing with emergency management officials. "People continue to need to follow the instructions of their local officials over the next 24, 48, 72 hours."

Matthew had smashed through the tip of Haiti's western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. Some 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said, after the storm pushed the sea into fragile coastal villages, some of which were only now being contacted.

At least 175 people died in villages clustered among the hills and coast of Haiti's fertile western tip. At least three towns reported dozens of fatalities, including the farming village of Chantal, where the mayor said 86 people perished, mostly when trees crushed houses. He said 20 others were missing.

"A tree fell on the house and flattened it, the entire house fell on us. I couldn't get out," said driver Jean-Pierre Jean-Donald, 27, who had been married for only a year.

"People came to lift the rubble, and then we saw my wife who had died in the same spot," Jean-Donald said, his young daughter by his side, crying "Mommy."

Cellphone networks were down and roads were flooded by sea and river water in Haiti.

FLORIDA POWER CUTS

Matthew swiped Florida on Friday with winds of 120 miles per hour (195 kph).

The city of Jacksonville could face significant flooding, the state's governor, Rick Scott, said. The storm had cut power to some 600,000 households in Florida, he told a news conference.

At 11:00 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), Matthew's eye, or center, was brushing the northeast Florida coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was moving at around 12 mph (19 kph) on a path that would likely take it near or over the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia through Friday night and near or over the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.

27 PHOTOS
Preparations for Hurricane Matthew in the United States
See Gallery
Preparations for Hurricane Matthew in the United States
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - OCTOBER 05: South Florida resident James Balboni prepares for Hurricane Matthew on October 5, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The hurricane has pounded Jamaica and Haiti on its way north toward the U.S. coastline. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - OCTOBER 05: South Florida resident James Balboni puts gas in a generator in preparation for Hurricane Matthew on October 5, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The hurricane has pounded Jamaica and Haiti on its way north toward the U.S. coastline. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
A customer counts pieces of plywood at a Home Depot Inc. store in Miami, Florida, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. A watch for Hurricane Matthew posted for Florida's Atlantic coast has been extended, now running from the Volusia/Brevard county line to Golden Beach, including Boca Raton and Titusville, according to U.S. National Weather Service. Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg via Getty Images
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - OCTOBER 05: South Florida resident James Balboni prepares for Hurricane Matthew on October 5, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The hurricane has pounded Jamaica and Haiti on its way north toward the U.S. coastline. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - OCTOBER 05: A sign points to an evacuation route as South Florida residents prepare for Hurricane Matthew on October 5, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The hurricane has pounded Jamaica and Haiti on its way north toward the U.S. coastline. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Liz Tirado tries to put up her shutters to cover the windows of her store front ahead of Hurricane Matthew on Cocoa Beach, Florida on October 5, 2016. 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. Far to the north, the first evacuations were ordered in the United States as coastal residents prepared to escape the approaching monster storm, expected off the East Coast later this week. / AFP / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - OCTOBER 05: A man loads panels used to cover windows onto his car as South Florida residents prepare for Hurricane Matthew on October 5, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The hurricane has pounded Jamaica and Haiti on its way north toward the U.S. coastline. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Graylan Coleman (R) helps a relative remove furniture at a beachfront home along Waccamaw Drive in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S. October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Dean Legge (R) helps his sister-law Josey Vereen (L) remove a mattress at her beachfront home along Waccamaw Drive in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S. October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Dean Legge (L), Steven Thigpen (R) and Graylan Coleman (C) help a relative remove furniture at a beachfront home along Waccamaw Drive in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S. October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
People line up to fill their cars with gas after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley ordered a Wednesday afternoon evacuation of statewide coastal counties in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 6: (L to R) Shane Reed and Jon Anderson walk along the Daytona Beach Boardwalk carrying boogie boards, October 6, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida. With Hurricane Matthew approaching the Atlantic coast of the United States, the governors of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have all declared a state of emergency. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
ORMOND BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 6: Patrick Sheehan boards up windows at his pizza shop, October 6, 2016 in Ormond Beach, Florida. With Hurricane Matthew approaching the Atlantic coast of the United States, the governors of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have all declared a state of emergency. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PALM BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 06: Ted Houston and his dog Kermit visit the beach as Hurricane Matthew approaches the area on October 6, 2016 in Palm Beach, United States. The hurricane is expected to make landfall sometime this evening or early in the morning as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 06: Kevin Forde (L) and John Haughey put up plywood on a window as they prepare for Hurricane Matthew as it approaches the area on October 6, 2016 in Miami Beach, United States. The hurricane is expected to make landfall sometime this evening or early in the morning as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Shoppers at a local market check the empty bread shelves October 5, 2016 in Titusville, Florida, as Hurricane Mathew heads for the southeastern United States. Hurricane Matthew has already hit Haiti and Cuba, with fatal results, and is barreling towards Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. / AFP / BRUCE WEAVER (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers install storm boards at Ripley's Believe IT Or Not in preparation for Hurricane Matthew in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Workers install storm boards in preparation for Hurricane Matthew along Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Shelves formerly holding water bottles sit empty at a supermarket before the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in South Daytona, Florida, U.S., Oct. 6, 2016. REUTERS/Phelan Ebenhack
Workers install storm boards in preparation for Hurricane Matthew along Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A fireman cuts plywood boards to cover the station's windows at the Charleston Fire Department's branch in the historic district ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, in Charleston, South Carolina October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Homeowner Don Appell prepares to board up one of the windows at his home ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Cherry Grove, South Carolina, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A resident leaves a message for the storm after securing for Hurricane Matthew in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Residents of Charleston occupy a school hallway at a shelter ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, in North Charleston, South Carolina October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A resident walks past a wall of sandbags protecting a store in one of the city's low-lying areas before the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S., October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Police officers and Red Cross workers wait for evacuees at a shelter that welcomes their pets too ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, at an elementary school in North Charleston, South Carolina October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

No significant damage or injuries were reported in cities and towns in south Florida where the storm brought down trees and power lines, CNN and local media reported.

Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he was concerned that relatively light damage in the south of Florida so far could give people farther up the coast a false sense of security.

"People should not be looking at the damages they're seeing and saying this storm is not that bad," Fugate told NBC. People should also be aware the hurricane carried more than just ferocious winds, he said.

"The real danger still is storm surge, particularly in northern Florida and southern Georgia. These are very vulnerable areas. They've never seen this kind of damage potential since the late 1800s," Fugate said.

In Cape Canaveral, Florida, home to the country's main space launch site, the storm downed power lines and trees and destroyed billboards.

Matthew lessened in intensity on Thursday night and into Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, but was still a Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. Category 5 is the strongest.

The U.S. National Weather Service said the storm could be the most powerful to strike northeast Florida in 118 years. The last major hurricane, classified as a storm bearing sustained winds of more than 110 mph (177 kph), to make landfall on U.S. shores was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Damage and potential casualties in the Bahamas were still unclear after Matthew passed near the capital, Nassau, on Thursday and then moved out over Grand Bahama Island.

The NHC's hurricane warning extended up the Atlantic coast from central Florida through Georgia and into North Carolina.

Some Floridians were resisting calls to evacuate.

In the historic city of St. Augustine just south of Jacksonville, about half of the 14,000 residents have refused to heed evacuation orders despite warnings of an eight-foot (2.4 meter) storm surge that could sink entire neighborhoods, Mayor Nancy Shaver said in a telephone interview from the area's emergency operations center.

Even as power started to dim and water to the city was shut off in St. Augustine, the oldest U.S. city and a major tourism attraction, residents, especially elderly and the working poor, refused to budge, she said.

"There's that whole inability to suspend disbelief that I think really affects people in a time like this," Shaver said.

In addition to those who simply did not believe the storm was a major threat, some of the city's residents lacked vehicles or other means to evacuate, said Shaver, who said she was now advising the people to hunker down in whatever shelter they could find.

Lack of means to move was one reason some people stayed in New Orleans before it was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm killed more than 1,800 people there and along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

As of Friday morning, about 22,000 people were in Florida shelters and more had moved inland or to the state's west coast, Scott said. Georgia and South Carolina had also opened dozens of shelters for evacuees.

South Carolina officials warned residents of potentially damaging flooding and storm surge once Matthew makes its way to the state.

"There is nothing safe about what's getting ready to happen," South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told a news conference.

Read Full Story