Hurricane Matthew: Strongest storm since 2004 nears Florida
(BBC) Hurricane Matthew has strengthened as it nears a “direct hit” with Florida, and is set to be the strongest storm in the United States for 12 years.
The hurricane has pounded the Bahamas after devastating parts of Haiti.
Damage could be “catastrophic”, Florida’s governor said. Evacuation orders are in place along the coast.
Matthew, with winds of 125mph (205km/h), is expected to hit southern Florida later on Thursday as a Category Four storm, US officials say.
At least 108 people have been killed in Haiti and thousands displaced. The storm has forced the presidential election there to be postponed.
Four people were also killed in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.
As of 13:10 GMT, the storm was passing over the capital of the Bahamas, Nassau. All traffic has been halted and people urged to move to higher ground because of storm surges.
Hurricane Matthew has been upgraded into a Category Four storm, the second-highest classification.
It is expected “move very close” to the east coast of the Florida peninsula on Thursday night, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
States of emergency have already been declared in four southern states, allowing the National Guard to be deployed.
Matthew could be the first Category Four storm to make landfall in the United States since Charley in August 2004, that caused $14bn (£11bn) in southern states.
“There are no excuses, you need to leave,” Florida Governor Rick Scott warned everyone in evacuation zones.
Some two million people have been advised to evacuate across coastal areas of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. North Carolina could also be affected as the storm moves north.
The NHC warned that coastal waters in parts of Florida could rise by up to nine feet (2.7 metres) because of a storm surge – when ocean surface water rises as a result of high winds and is pushed on to coastal areas.
(NEWS ROOM) Additionally, several local shipping agencies have indicated that their offices in Miami will remain closed on Thursday as Hurricane Matthew advances to Florida.
This will consequently lead to delayed delivery of packages to Guyana and the Caribbean.
Zoon said it apologises for any inconvenience caused and looks forward to keeping its customers updated with information as it becomes available, while EZone; another online shopping and shipping agency stated that its office which was closed on Wednesday will remain closed on Thursday.
Freightlink, on the other hand, noted that its delivery schedule up to Wednesday was unaffected by the ongoing weather conditions, however, this may change in coming days.
(BBC) In Haiti, meanwhile, rescue workers are struggling to reach areas cut off by the storm.
Officials said they were not yet in a position to gauge the true extent of the damage – particularly in the Grand Anse area, which was directly in the storm’s path.
A key bridge had been destroyed, roads were impassable and phone communications were down, officials said.
Mourad Wahba, the UN special representative for Haiti, said at least 10,000 people were in shelters and hospitals were overflowing.