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2 Haitian fishermen die in storm-whipped seas

Government banned boating along country's coastline beginning Saturday

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The director of Haiti's Civil Protection Agency said two fishermen have died in rough water churned up by the approaching Hurricane Matthew.

Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste said a boat carrying one of the men capsized early Monday off the tiny fishing town of Saint Jean du Sud as he was trying to bring his wooden skiff to shore.

Jean-Baptiste said the body of the other was recovered a short time later off the nearby town of Aquin after he apparently drowned.

Both towns are near the southwestern coastal city of Les Cayes. The center of Hurricane Matthew is expected to pass near or over southwestern Haiti on Tuesday, but the area is already experiencing rain from the outer bands of the storm.

The deaths of the two fishermen in Haiti brings the total death toll from Hurricane Matthew to at least four.

The government banned boating along the country's coastlines starting Saturday. But the head of an 80-member fishermen's association in the south coast town of Gressier said some fishermen were taking to the seas early Monday.

Johnny Souffrant said "They feel they have to take risks to support their families."

Other people living on the island nation are preparing for the storm, by stocking up on food, other household necessities and gas for their vehicles.

Government officials have told residents to evacuate as Matthew makes its approach, as flooding is a major concern associated with the storm. 

"It's been very difficult," Port-au-Prince Mayor Ralph Youri Chevry said. "We know people don't like to leave their house, and that's what we've been trying to do with the police all day." 

Gas stations and stores in Port-au-Prince closed early Monday as people prepared for the storm. 

Hotel employees told Local 10 News photojournalist Ismael Louis that they are also preparing their guests for the storm, giving them a notice about storm procedures and how to stay safe.

Employees said they are also removing all objects that could become airborne because of high winds.

Louis said a company called National Water is giving free water to people and are expected to give more than 50,000 bags out.

Each bag contains 60 smaller bags of water.

Bags will continued to be passed out throughout the week.

Louis said many people on the island nation are not yet worried about the storm and the damage it could cause.

"After the storm passes, the aftermath is going to be devastating," Louis said. "A lot of people don't take the storm as serious as us in Miami. If we get a category 1 storm in Miami, everyone is worrying, everyone is freaking out, but people here in Haiti, they think, 'Hey, it's a storm. It's rain, it's wind. Nothing's going to happen to them.'"

Louis said the government is encouraging people to go to shelters, but some said they want to ride out the storm at their homes.

"We're not ready, but I'm sure we're going to do what we can do," Youri Chevry said. "I am sure we have friends all over the world who are ready to help us again."