Millions in US told to flee hurricane, over 100 dead in Haiti

President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in Florida, as highways there and in neighboring states clogged up with people.

AFP| Updated: Oct 07, 2016, 04:49 AM IST
Millions in US told to flee hurricane, over 100 dead in Haiti

Miami: Some three million people on the US southeast coast faced urgent evacuation today as monstrous Hurricane Matthew -- now blamed for more than 100 deaths in Haiti alone -- bore down for a direct hit on Florida.

President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in Florida, as highways there and in neighboring states clogged up with people streaming inland to escape the storm blasting its way through the Caribbean.

Officials warned the Category Four hurricane will be ferocious and dangerous: beach-eroding waves as tall as two story buildings and winds strong enough to snap trees and blow away roofs or entire houses.

Poor and vulnerable Haiti remained essentially cut in half two days after Matthew hit. Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph said at least 108 Haitians have died, with 50 killed in a single town in the south where the coastline was described as wrecked.

In its latest target, the storm slammed the Bahamas today, blowing off roofs, downing trees and knocking out power. Weather forecasters working out of Nassau airport had to flee for their lives.

A hotel employee in Nassau described the whole glass entrance of the building being blown in by fierce 100 mph (160 km) winds.

"You could see the wind was pushing it and pushing it, and it was shaking," said the woman, who asked not to be named. "I screamed out as it shattered in the lobby."

One resident living southeast of Nassau took to Facebook to plead for emergency rescue.

"Help!" Tamico Gilbert posted shortly before noon. "Water over bed now.

"I'm on a chest of drawers. Phone battery low."

Matthew was forecast to be very near or over the east central coast of Florida today night or early Friday.

As US gas stations ran dry, frantic shoppers flocked to stores for essentials.

They snapped up batteries, transistor radios, bread, canned goods, bottled water, ice, pet food, toilet paper and assorted supplies to gird for what Florida Governor Rick Scott warned would be a devastating, killer storm, with winds howling at up to 150 miles per hour (240 kph).

"Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate," Scott told a news conference. "Time is running out."

Matthew has regained strength as it approaches Florida and was upgraded a notch today to Category Four by the National Hurricane Center on its 1-5 scale.

Around 1.5 million coastal dwellers are under an evacuation order in Florida alone. More than a million others in South Carolina and other coastal states were also told to escape the path of the storm, which first made landfall in Haiti Tuesday.

Mandatory evacuations were also ordered in six coastal counties in Georgia that are home to some 520,000 people.