PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The Caribbean death toll from Hurricane Sandy rose again sharply on Saturday, even as the storm swirled away toward the U.S. East Coast. Officials said the hurricane system has cost at least 58 lives in addition to destroying or badly damaging thousands of homes.
While Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas took direct hits from the storm, the majority of deaths and the most extensive damage were in impoverished Haiti, where it has rained almost non-stop since Tuesday.
The official death toll in Haiti stood at 44 Saturday, but authorities said that could still rise. The country's ramshackle housing and denuded hillsides are especially vulnerable to flooding when rains come.
"This is a disaster of major proportions," Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the Associated Press. "The whole south is underwater."
He said the death toll jumped on Saturday because it was the first day that authorities were able to go out and assess the damage, which he estimated was in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the bulk of it in lost crops.
One death was reported in Jamaica, 11 in Cuba, one in the Bahamas and one in Puerto Rico.