Florida in United States is facing the most dangerous storm in living memory as Hurricane Matthew barrels in from the Atlantic threatening coastal cities with surging tides, torrential rain and 130 mile-an-hour winds.
Over 300 people have been killed by the Hurricane in Haiti and the numbers are rising rapidly. Many victims were killed by falling trees, flying debris and swollen rivers when Matthew hit on Tuesday with winds of 145 miles per hour (230 kph).
Most of the fatalities were in towns and fishing villages around the western end of Tiburon peninsula in Haiti’s southwest, a region of white Caribbean beaches and rivers backed by hills.
The storm passed directly through the peninsula, driving the sea inland and flattening homes on Monday and Tuesday.
Matthew is the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since Felix in 2007 and was closing in on Florida as a Category 4 cyclone, the second strongest on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.
After cutting a deadly swath across the Caribbean , the Category Four storm will scour its way up a 600-mile (965-kilometre) strip of coast from Boca Raton in Florida to just north of Charleston, South Carolina, driving seawater and heavy rain inland.
Only a handful of hurricanes of this strength have ever made landfall in Florida, and none since 1898 has threatened to scythe its way north along low-lying, densely populated coast into Georgia and beyond.
Evacuation orders were issued for areas covering at least three million residents and major cities like Jacksonville, Florida and Savannah, Georgia lay in the path of the terrible storm.
Daytona Beach imposed a curfew that was to last until dawn on Friday, and President Barack Obama declared emergencies in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, promising federal aid.
As the first bouts of heavy rain and powerful gusts arrived at seafront resorts presaging the storm beyond, more than 90,000 homes and businesses in Florida had lost power.
Matthew has already battered Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas and US officials are taking no chances, warning that loss of life is a virtual certainty.
“This storm is a monster,” declared Florida’s Governor Rick Scott. “I want everybody to survive this. We can rebuild homes. We can rebuild businesses… We can’t rebuild a life.”
Highways were jammed with people streaming inland to escape the storm, forecast to be strong enough to snap trees and blow away roofs or entire houses. As US gas stations ran dry, frantic shoppers flocked to stores for batteries, transistor radios, bread, canned goods, bottled water, ice and pet food.