Hurricane Matthew: ‘Dangerous’ storm closes in on Haiti

One of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent years is closing in on Haiti, bringing winds, rains and storm surges.

Hurricane Matthew, a Category Four storm, is forecast to hit the western tip of Haiti in early on Tuesday.

But the outer limits of the weather system is already bearing down on the island.

Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries and many residents live in areas prone to flooding.

The fast-approaching Matthew could bring up to 40in (102cm) of rain and winds of 145mph (230km/h), potentially triggering mudslides.

Its centre is forecast to hit Haiti’s south-western tip around dawn.

Already one death has been reported, a fisherman who drowned in rough seas caused by the storm.

“We are looking at a dangerous hurricane that is heading into the vicinity of western Haiti and eastern Cuba,” said Richard Pasch, a specialist with the US National Hurricane Center.

“People who are impacted by things like flooding and mudslides hopefully would get out and relocate because that’s where we have seen loss of life in the past.”

Authorities have urged people to stock up on food and water and secure their homes. Thousands are still living in tents following a huge earthquake in 2010.

The mayor of Haiti’s largest slum in the capital Port-au-Prince, Frederic Hislain, called on the government to evacuate some 150,000 people whose homes are threatened.

Haitian officials say that about 1,300 emergency shelters have been built, enough to accommodate 340,000 people. Both airports in Haiti are closed.

But some Haitians have reportedly refused to go to shelters, fearful of having their possessions stolen.

One local in Port-au-Prince, however, said the community would unite in the face of the storm’s danger.

“We are communicating amongst ourselves thanks to our own means. We will tell the people how the situation is. If things are bad then we will come together.”

About 13,000 people were evacuated from high-risk areas in neighbouring Dominican Republic, which is also expected to get battered by rains and winds, according to the country’s civil defence chief.

Heavy rain and winds have already hit parts of Jamaica, with floodwaters blocking roads in the capital Kingston.

Matthew is later expected to reach eastern Cuba, where a hurricane alert is in place for six eastern provinces and residents are being moved from low-lying areas.

The storm is expected to pass east of Florida through the Bahamas, although it is too soon to say whether it will hit the US coast.

Source: bbc