An extremely dangerous Hurricane Matthew moved slowly over the Caribbean, following a track that authorities warned could trigger devastating floods in parts of Haiti.
The powerful Category 4 hurricane had winds of 230 km/h. 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 today before reaching Cuba tomorrow, the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti. Rain was yesterday 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 US 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.
Officials with Haiti's civil protection agency said there were roughly 1300 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.The hurricane centre said the storm appeared to be on track to pass east of Florida through the Bahamas.
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.
Meanwhile in Australia, the states of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia continue to battle floods.
Adelaide Hills residents have been urged to sandbag their homes and prepare for flooding as rain continues to drench the region. Residents have been told to be ready to evacuate ahead of rising flood waters in northern Victoria. And residents in parts of regional NSW were told they needed to be prepared to evacuate as rivers slowly rise and more rain is forecast.