Hurricane Matthew strengthened slightly early Tuesday as it bore down on Haiti, while also edging in the direction of the US state of Florida, according to local media.
At 2 am ET (0700 GMT) the category 4 hurricane was moving at 13 kilometres-per-hour (kph) with maximum sustained winds of 230 kph and was located approximately 265 kilometres from Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, CNN reported.
Warnings and watches were in effect across the Caribbean, with five provinces of Cuba, including Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba, as well as parts of south-eastern and central Bahamas and Haiti under a hurricane warning.
Heavy rain was already falling in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas and where 80 per cent of the population lives in poverty, with up to 100 centimetres of rain predicted.
The country’s Civil Protection Agency said the coastal towns of Anse-d’Hainault and Tiburon were partially flooded, CNN said.
“Some fluctuations in intensity are possible during the next couple of days, but Matthew is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through Wednesday,” the US National Hurricane Center said.
Cuban authorities have evacuated about 1 million people from coastal regions, while the US Navy has ordered the evacuation of about 700 non-essential staff from its base at Guantanamo Bay.
CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said Jamaica may avoid the worst of the storm but could suffer flooding due to poor drainage.
Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Florida where the storm was expected to arrive later in the week, according to CBS Miami.
“Hurricane Matthew is a life-threatening category 4 hurricane and we must all take it seriously. If [it] directly impacts Florida, there could be massive destruction which we haven’t seen since Hurricane Andrew,” Florida’s governor Rick Scott said in a statement, referring to the 1992 hurricane.
South Florida will more likely experience tropical storm force winds come Wednesday, into Thursday and hurricane-force winds Friday.
The US has sent disaster response teams to Jamaica and Haiti, and also prepared disaster supplies as the storm approaches landfall, according to the White House.(dpa/NAN)