Caribbean: Hurricane Matthew

3
Oct

An extremely dangerous Hurricane Matthew moved slowly over the Caribbean on Sunday night, following a track that authorities warned could trigger devastating floods in parts of Haiti.

 

The powerful Category 4 hurricane had winds of 145 mph (230 kph) late Sunday. Its centre was expected to pass to the east of Jamaica and then cross over or be very close to the southwestern tip of Haiti late Monday or early Tuesday before reaching Cuba on Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

 

A hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti. Rain was already falling on Jamaica, but forecasters said the southern Haitian countryside around Jeremie and Les Cayes could see the worst of the rains and punishing winds.

 

“Wherever that centre passes close to would see the worst winds and that’s what’s projected to happen for the western tip of Haiti,” said John Cangilosi, a hurricane specialist at the U.S. centre. “There is a big concern for rains there and also a big concern for storm surge.”

 

Matthew is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history and briefly reached the top classification, Category 5, becoming the strongest hurricane in the region since Felix in 2007. The hurricane centre said the storm appeared to be on track to pass east of Florida through the Bahamas, but it was too soon to predict with certainty whether it would reach the U.S. coast.

 

Officials with Haiti’s civil protection agency said there were roughly 1,300 emergency shelters across the country, enough to hold up to 340,000 people. Authorities broadcast warnings over the radio telling people to swiftly heed evacuation warnings, trying to counter a common tendency for people to try to stay in their homes to protect them during natural disasters.

 

In a Sunday address carried on state radio, interim President Jocelerme Privert urged Haitians to listen closely to the warnings of officials and be ready to move. “To those people living in houses that could collapse, it’s necessary that you leave these houses to take refuge in schools and churches,” he said.

 

Teams of civil protection officials walked the streets of Les Cayes and other areas urging residents to secure their homes, prepare emergency kits and warn their neighbours. They also evacuated people from some outlying islands. Many Haitians appeared unaware of the looming hurricane…………..

…………………….. A hurricane watch was posted for the southeastern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands. A tropical storm warning was in effect for parts of the Dominican Republic, where authorities began mandatory evacuations of areas at risk for flooding.

 

The hurricane earlier had been projected to be closer to Jamaica, but still was a danger to the island.

 

“The centre of the system is looking more likely that it will pass to the east of Jamaica but it won’t miss it by that much, so they are still going to see impacts,” Cangilosi said. “The impacts are maybe going to be a little lower there than they would be in Haiti and eastern Cuba.”

 

After passing Jamaica and Haiti, Matthew was projected to reach Cuba. The centre was expected to pass about 50 miles east of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where authorities evacuated about 700 spouses and children of service members on military transport planes to Florida.

 

The U.S. installation has a population of about 5,500, including 61 men held at the detention centre for terrorism suspects. Navy Capt. David Culpepper, the base commander, said emergency shelters had been set up and authorities were bracing for 80 mph winds and storm surge and heavy rain that could threaten some low-lying areas, including around the power plant and water desalination facility.

 

“We have no choice but to prepare ourselves for to take a frontal assault if you will,” Culpepper said.

 

Cuban President Raul Castro travelled to the eastern city of Santiago to oversee preparations for Matthew’s arrival.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/hurricane-matthew-threatens-haiti-jamaica-cuba-1.3098941