Hurricane Matthew could be 'catastrophic' in Florida

  • 04/10/2016
A woman protects herself from rain ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti (Reuters)
A woman protects herself from rain ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti (Reuters)

The towns and villages of Haiti's southwestern peninsula are battening down for a nightlong lashing by life-threatening winds, rains and storm surge unleashed by powerful Hurricane Matthew.

The dangerous Category 4 storm is also dropping heavy rains on other parts of Haiti and Jamaica and dangerous rainfall is a threat for the Dominican Republic.

Matthew was packing maximum sustained winds of 230 km/h late on Monday, and forecasters say its centre is expected to pass near or over Haiti's southwestern tip after dawn on Tuesday local time.

It will continue on for another landfall expected in the lightly populated eastern end of Cuba, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

"It has the potential of being catastrophic," centre spokesperson Dennis Feltgen said, when asked about Matthew's expected impact on Haiti.

"We are looking at a dangerous hurricane that is heading into the vicinity of western Haiti and eastern Cuba,'' said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist with the centre.

Forecasters say the storm could dump as much as 100 cm of rain on some isolated areas of Haiti, raising fears of deadly mudslides and floods in the heavily deforested country.

Haiti's civil protection agency has reported one death, a fisherman who drowned in rough water churned up by the storm. That raised Matthew's death toll to at least three. One man died in Colombia and a teen was killed in St Vincent and the Grenadines as the storm moved through the Caribbean.

The region's strongest hurricane since Felix in 2007, Matthew is expected to make landfall in Cuba about 80 kilometres east of the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.

The US hurricane centre says that after crossing Cuba, the storm probably will move northward through the Bahamas, but it's too soon to predict with certainty whether it will threaten the US East Coast.