JEREMIE, Haiti — Survivors of Hurricane Matthew put on their Sunday finest and picked their way through downed power lines to sing and pray in ruined churches, while desperation grew in other parts of devastated Haiti and international rescue efforts began ramping up.

Authorities were still unsure of the extent of the disaster, with some communities still cut off. But tens of thousands of homes were obliterated and the dead number in the hundreds.

Guillaume Silvera, a senior official with the Civil Protection Agency in the storm-blasted Grand-Anse Department, said at least 522 deaths were confirmed there alone – not including people in communities still cut off by collapsed roads and bridges.

National Civil Protection headquarters in Port-au-Prince, meanwhile, said Saturday its official count for the whole country was 336.

Despite the loss, families packed what remained the of city’s churches, many seated in pews under open sky because Matthew ripped away roofs and even walls. At least one was so badly damaged that worshippers set up an altar outside.

Elise Pierre, who said she was about 80, said she believed it was a divine miracle that she and her loved ones survived.

“If God wasn’t protecting us we’d all be gone today, blown into the ocean or up into the mountains,” said Pierre.

The sound of hammering could be heard on nearly every street in Jeremie.

On one corner, Jameson Pierre was mixing cement. The 22-year-old storm refugee saw at least one bright side.

“There will be lots and lots of jobs since so many homes were knocked down. I’ve been working for the last three days straight,” he said in the fierce morning sun. He said he was getting about a dollar a day.


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