Over 900 people are dead after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti and Jamaica on Oct. 3, which was then followed by an outbreak of cholera, according to the New York Times. The Associated Press reported the death toll in the United States to have reached 23 and hit Florida on Oct. 7.
Noelle Oldham, a sophomore from Florida studying art education, said, “My best friend and her family had to evacuate. She went to Flagler, up where St. Augustine is. Her whole school was just flooded with rivers of water. The road that’s by the beach is cracked and broken.”
Matthew was classified as a category four storm but briefly reached category five, making it the most powerful hurricane in the Caribbean since 2007. The U.S. National Hurricane center reported the hurricane had winds up to 140 mph, according to AP.
“It’s scary, and I don’t feel like the hurricane was getting a lot of coverage when it was just in the Caribbean,” said Laiken Tomie, a sophomore accounting major from Canada. “The hurricane got all the way up to top classification at one point. That’s really scary. I’m curious as to what the relief efforts are in the region.”
Hurricane specialist Richard Pasch told AP, "We are looking at a dangerous hurricane that is heading into the vicinity of western Haiti and eastern Cuba. People who are impacted by things like flooding and mudslides hopefully would get out and relocate because that's where we have seen loss of life in the past."
Kaelah Clark, a junior from Florida studying biomed, said, “Even though it didn’t hit South Florida directly, lots of people evacuated from where I live. They had school off for a few days and lots of rain. Many of my friends lost power and water, especially in the north. My parents filled their bathtubs with water because they knew they would lose power and water, which is wild.”
More than 900 people are currently in shelters in Jamaica, according to AP. The majority of people, however, refused to evacuate. Only four people in Port Royal boarded buses and evacuated. In Pedro Cays area, no one evacuated, leaving over 30 people susceptible to flooding in that area.
“Of course people don’t want to leave their homes,” said Stephanie Chang, a junior social work major from Hong Kong. “I think they are afraid to lose all their possessions. If someone asked you to evacuate during a hurricane warning, would you? If you weren’t totally sure that you would be affected, probably not.”
The New York Times reported Florida’s eastern coast is currently being evacuated as Hurricane Matthew heads towards West Palm Beach over the Bahamas. Around 1.5 million people are residing in evacuation zones. Over 100 shelters have been opened for these displaced Florida residents, and 2,500 members of the National Guard are currently helping with relief efforts. Ports in Fort Pierce, Miami, and Palm Beach have been shut down in preparation for the storm.
According to AP, Florida Governor Rick Scott made the plea, “There are no excuses. You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate. This storm will kill you. Time is running out.” President Obama also declared a state of emergency in Florida as the storm approaches.
Amanda Pinter, a junior majoring in computer information systems from Canada, said, “I just hope that people actually evacuate. People often think, ‘This can’t affect me’ or think that they are not at as high of a risk as everyone, especially if authorities tell them to take precautions. This is a dangerous mindset. I’m really surprised by the amount of people who wouldn’t evacuate in Haiti. I hope that everyone is prepared to reinforce their homes with sandbags and boards, or at least ready to leave until the hurricane passes.”