MEXICO CITY, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) — Hurricane Matthew left devastation in its wake, killing at least 264 people in Haiti, as it moved toward the Bahamas and the United States.

The number of death had risen to 264 in one of the worst-hit parts of the country, after Matthew tore through the country on Tuesday, the bureau of civil protection of the Sud department was quoted as saying by the Spanish news agency EFE.

Matthew, the strongest hurricane in recent years, has flooded towns, downed power lines and cut people off as it swept through the Caribbean country with wind speeds reaching up to 230 km/h.

Haiti is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and has suffered greatly in recent years. It is frequently battered by hurricanes, with Hurricane Jeanne, killing at least 3,000 people in 2004.

In 2010, the country was devastated by a powerful 7-magnitude earthquake, which left at least 200,000 dead.

"The situation is catastrophic," Haitian Interim President Jocelerme Privert said at a press conference Thursday after flying over some of the stricken areas.

"There are a lot of areas in the country that have been affected, a lot of places that are difficult to access," he said.

The situation in the towns of Jeremie, Les Cayes, Port-Salut, Petite-Riviere de Nippes and Dame Marie is considered to be particularly critical.

"It's complete destruction in Jeremie, the capital of the southern department of Grande Anse. About 80 percent of the buildings are gone. All phone lines and electricity are down. Access is completely cut off, and everyone is running out of food and money," CARE Haiti country director Jean-Michel Vigreux tweeted.

Mercy Corps, a humanitarian NGO, said that 80 percent of banana crops in the region of Arcahaie were wiped out, leaving around 20,000 families with a lack of livelihood.

Rescue teams and aid have begun arriving from around the world as the scale of the devastation becomes clear.

The government of Haiti estimates that at least 350,000 people are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Thursday.

A UN Disaster Assessment Coordination team and the Haitian government hope to conduct a joint assessment with other humanitarian partners, Haq said. "Communication with and access to the worst affected areas remain extremely limited."

The World Food Programme, the World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund, along with NGO partners are all scaling up support for critical shelter, water, sanitation and food assistance, Haq said.

Meanwhile, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is supporting the Haitian authorities in their assessment and reconnaissance efforts, especially in the most affected areas in the south western tip of Haiti, and the cities of Jeremie and Les Cayes, he said.

"MINUSTAH has deployed assets by air and road, while its police and military components have been helping to clear debris from the roadways," he added.