Earth & Conservation

Hurricane Matthew Barrels Toward Jamaica, Haiti

Hurricane Matthew is the most devastating Caribbean storm in a decade.

Photo: A girl looks at anchored boats as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Les Cayes, Haiti, Oct. 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares Port-au-Prince (AFP) - Hurricane Matthew has left one person dead and another missing in Haiti, officials said Monday, as it churns through the Caribbean as the worst storm in nearly a decade.

A boat with three fishermen capsized Friday off the coast of southern Haiti. Two managed to make it ashore but the body of the other was found later, civil protection authorities said.

Another boat was broken up by rough seas off the same coast Sunday. Three people were rescued but the fourth is missing.

As Haiti, Jamaica and other Caribbean nations gird for the Category 4 hurricane, Haitian authorities declared a halt to all maritime activities Saturday afternoon.

Forecasters say Matthew is the most powerful storm in the Caribbean since Hurricane Felix in 2007.

Matthew is forecast to sail between Haiti and Jamaica on Monday, dumping heavy rain across the region.

It is expected to continue north, tearing across southern and eastern Cuba between Monday and Tuesday as it marches toward the Bahamas.

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The storm is also expected to drop 10 to 20 inches (25-50 cm) of rain over eastern Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and eastern Cuba, "with possible isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches (64 centimeters)."

"This rainfall will likely produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the NHC warned.

Haiti, Jamaica Batten Down

Thousands are still living in tents in Haiti after the country's massive 2010 earthquake. Erosion is also especially dangerous in Haiti because of high mountains and lack of trees and bushes in areas where they have been cut for cooking.

More than 500 people were evacuated Sunday as a precaution from Jeremie, in the southwestern part of the country. Some of them were reluctant to leave, said civil defense chief Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste.

"My countrymen, do not be stubborn, do not say 'God is good' and will take care of you," interim president Jocelerme Privert said in an address to the nation.

"The dangerous areas will be evacuated. We have no interest in risking your lives," he said.

The poorest country in the Americas is home to almost 11 million people, many living in fragile housing.

In Jamaica, minister McKenzie said that the army and military reserves were called up to help deal with hurricane damage.

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Buses were also being sent to flood-prone areas to move residents to shelters.

U.S. embassies in Jamaica and Haiti were set to close Monday and Tuesday due to the storm.

In Cuba, President Raul Castro traveled to the southeastern city of Santiago to oversee emergency operations.

Matthew had the potential to become a storm for the ages, he warned residents.

"This is a hurricane it's necessary to prepare for as if it were twice as powerful as Sandy," the Cuban leader said, referring to the megastorm that hit with massive destructive force in 2012.

At the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, located in the area where Matthew is expected to cross, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for all non-essential personnel and family members.

America's Accuweather website warned meanwhile that Matthew could hit the U.S. East Coast around midweek.

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