Hurricane Matthew is battering the coast of Florida, where it has left more than 820,000 people without power. The system, which has not yet made landfall in the US, has been downgraded to a Category Three, with winds of up to 120 mph (195 km/h).
Florida’s governor said the hurricane, which would be the first to make US landfall since 2005, still had time to make a direct hit. In Haiti, Matthew left a death toll of more than 840 in its wake.
At 11:00 local time (15:00 GMT) Matthew was hugging the Florida coast, about 35 miles east of Daytona Beach and moving north-west at about 13mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have all declared states of emergencies. On Friday morning, President Barack Obama addressed fears that the storm’s winds could fuel a wave of seawater that might wash over coastal communities along a 500-mile stretch from South Florida to Charleston, South Carolina. The UN has warned it could take days for the full impact of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti to emerge, as the death toll soars to more than 800 dead. The death toll has doubled, and may rise, as rescue teams gain access to southern areas cut off by the storm.
The World Food Programme’s Carlos Veloso says some of the hard-hit towns can only be reached by air or sea. Many of the deaths in Haiti were in the south-western coast, which suffered the full force of the hurricane this week. Rescue efforts are under way to assess the destruction left in the wake of the most powerful Caribbean storm in a decade. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency on Friday doubled the death toll from the hurricane from 400 to more than 800.
A definitive number is taking time to obtain because of the intensity of the damage to remote areas that are inaccessible because of flood water.
At least one major town in the south – Jeremie has been 80 percent destroyed, with aerial footage showing the scale of destruction with hundreds of flattened houses.