Hurricane Matthew in Haiti: Atlantans look to help country rebuild

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

As reports of Hurricane Matthew’s toll of death and destruction across southwest Haiti continue to grow, Haitian-Americans in the Atlanta area are trying to gauge the storm’s impact on communities on the island and how best to help.

On Saturday, Frantz Bourget of Atlanta was still waiting to hear a full description of the damage from his mother, who rode out the storm in Port-au-Prince.

"We don't know if we're up or down because that's all you can think of," he said.

Matthew’s overall death toll in Haiti remains unknown, though Reuters’ latest estimate put it at more than 800. Death counts are frequently difficult to tabulate in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster in any country, though it is particularly difficult in remote and mountainous southwest Haiti.

Tens of thousands remain in shelters and Haiti’s government has estimated at least 350,000 people need some kind of assistance in what is likely to be the country’s worst humanitarian crisis since the devastating earthquake of January 2010.

After the earthquake, Reginald Grand’Pierre of Atlanta worked with coffee growers in the department of Grand’Anse on the northern tip of the peninsula to help them sell to consumers in Atlanta and across the country.

The company they formed, Itiah Coffee, was an attempt to rebuild.

Now aerial photographs show “total destruction” in the region, he said. “From what I hear, it’s as if a bomb was dropped.”

Grand’Pierre and his partners are hoping to rebuild — again.

“We’re seeing how we can assist them in helping them assess the damage and create structures to quickly get back on their feet,” he said.

Saurel Quettan, president of the Georgia Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce, said friends and relatives in Haiti have told him Matthew’s toll is far worse than images on the news suggest.

“If you can imagine New York City with the subway system completely destroyed you can start to begin to have a picture of what the Haitian people in that part of the country are dealing with,” he said.

Quettan urged those who want to help Haiti to give money to charities already working in the country to help Haiti rebuild and “prepare for the next storm which inevitably will come.”

How you can help: Cash donations are the most efficient form of assistance, experts say. Visit charitynavigator.com for information on top-rated groups responding to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.