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Hurricane Matthew batters the Bahamas as US evacuations begin

Published 05/10/2016

A motel displays a sign asking Hurricane Matthew to stay away in Kill Devil Hiils in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on October 5, 2016 as the storm makes its way towards the United States./ AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMMNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
A motel displays a sign asking Hurricane Matthew to stay away in Kill Devil Hiils in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on October 5, 2016 as the storm makes its way towards the United States./ AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMMNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
Workers board up a restaurant ahead of hurricane Matthew in Atlantic Beach, Florida, on October 5, 2016. The United States began evacuating coastal areas on Wednesday as Hurricane Matthew churned toward the Bahamas, after killing at least nine people in the Caribbean in a maelstrom of wind, mud and water. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMADJEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
A truck negotiates a road damaged by Hurricane Matthew, in Petit Goave, Haiti, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. Rescue workers in Haiti struggled to reach cutoff towns and learn the full extent of the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew as the storm began battering the Bahamas on Wednesday and triggered large-scale evacuations along the U.S. East Coast. ( AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Motorists drive past a hurricane warning sign, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in Hallandale Beach, Fla. Hurricane Matthew marched toward Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas and nearly 2 million people along the coast were urged to evacuate their homes Wednesday, a mass exodus ahead of a major storm packing power the U.S. hasn't seen in more than a decade. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A woman is carried across the river La Digue in Petit Goave where the bridge collapsed during the rains of the Hurricane Matthew, southwest of Port-au-Prince, October 5, 2016. Haiti and the eastern tip of Cuba -- blasted by Matthew on October 4, 2016 -- began the messy and probably grim task of assessing the storm's toll. Matthew hit them as a Category Four hurricane but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Three-month old Matthew Cohen is dressed in a Donald Trump-style suit by his father Les Cohen of Victorville, California before the start of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rally on October, 5, 2016 at the Henderson Pavilion in Henderson, Nevada. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BeckROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Three-month old Matthew Cohen is dressed in a Donald Trump-style suit by his father Les Cohen of Victorville, California before the start of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rally on October, 5, 2016 at the Henderson Pavilion in Henderson, Nevada. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BeckROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Michale McGee (L) is helped by his friend Charles Nordan to board up his house ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Atlantic Beach, Florida, on October 5, 2016. The United States began evacuating coastal areas on Wednesday as Hurricane Matthew churned toward the Bahamas, after killing at least nine people in the Caribbean in a maelstrom of wind, mud and water. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMADJEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
People who had to evacuate the area return to their homes in the Carbonera community of Guantanamo, Cuba following Hurricane Matthew, October 5, 2016. The storm slammed into Haiti and Cuba as a Category Four hurricane on October 4, 2016 but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). Its winds were howling at 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour). / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A man removes the garbage in a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Pic: AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - The mother (C) of two girls who died when a landslide knocked the walls of their house down during the passage of Hurricane Matthew, is comforted outside her house in the neighbourhood of Capotillo, in Santo Domingo on October 4, 2016. Matthew, a Category Four hurricane, slammed into the Dominican Republic and Haiti Tuesday, triggering major floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of the storm that has claimed at least three lives in each country. / AFP PHOTO / Erika SANTELICESERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images
A house with its roof torn off by the winds caused by Hurricane Matthew stands in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A vehicles sits next to a house, stranded in the flood waters caused by Hurricane Matthew, in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A man rides a bicycle past a tree uprooted by the winds of Hurricane Matthew in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds Tuesday, tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A woman and a child walk in a waterlogged street as they head to a shelter under the pouring rain caused by Hurricane Matthew, in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A structure lays on the ground, brought down by the winds of Hurricane Matthew in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Yorick Bain uses a drill to secure plywood over the windows of a Dunkin Donuts store in downtown Nassau, Bahamas, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The demand for materials such as plywood and sand caused many businesses to post "sold out" signs as residents moved about the island preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew which is is expected to impact all the islands of the Bahamas in the coming days on its way towards the Florida coastline. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
The high winds and rain of Hurricane Matthew roar over Baracoa, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The dangerous Category 4 storm blew ashore around dawn in Haiti. It unloaded heavy rain as it swirled on toward a lightly populated part of Cuba and the Bahamas. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
People watch from the other side of the La Digue river as water roars past the destroyed Petit Goave bridge, as Hurricane Matthew passes over, in Petit Goave, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds destroying the bridge and cutting off road communication with the worst hit areas. ( AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
The high winds of Hurricane Matthew roar over Baracoa, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The dangerous Category 4 storm blew ashore around dawn in Haiti. It unloaded heavy rain as it swirled on toward a lightly populated part of Cuba and the Bahamas. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Surf and wind from Hurricane Matthew crash on the waterfront in Baracoa, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The dangerous Category 4 storm blew ashore around dawn in Haiti. It unloaded heavy rain as it swirled on toward a lightly populated part of Cuba and the Bahamas. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A man looks at the rise of a river, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Two men remove a downed power line to allow vehicles passage, in Petit Goave, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds Tuesday, tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. ( AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
People look at a flooding river , in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People look at a flooded road, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People look at a flooding river , in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People look at a flooded road, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A car makes its way through flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A car makes its way through a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks in a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People are seen walking in flooded streets, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People are seen walking in flooded streets, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People are seen walking in flooded streets, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People are seen walking in flooded streets, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks down a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People stand in houses on a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Residents remain at their houses in Guantanamo city, Cuba on October 4, 2016 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
View of a street of Guantanamo city, east of Havana on October 4, 2016 in Guantanamo province ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks down a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Residents walk along Guantanamo city streets on October 4, 2016 in the Guantanamo province, Cuba. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents remain at their houses in Guantanamo city, at east of Havana on October 4, 2016 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A Cuban drives a motorcycle along a street of Guantanamo city, Cuba on October 4, 2016 ahead the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents wait for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in the Guantanamo province on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents buy groceries in Guantanamo city, Cuba on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
People remain at a shelter in Guantanamo city, east of Cuba on October 4, 2016 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents observe the overflowing Guaso river in the Guantanamo province, Cuba on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A man carries a plywood on his car along a street of Guantanamo city, east of Cuba on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Jim LaFeir, of Ft. Lauderdale, buys a gas can at Lowe's in Oakland Park, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Anxious Florida residents raided grocery store shelves and North Carolina called for the evacuation of three barrier islands as Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a about decade, threatened to rake a large swath of the East Coast in the coming days. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Residents remain at their houses in Guantanamo city, Cuba on October 4, 2016 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
The GOES East satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and taken Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 at 1:12 p.m. EDT, shows Hurricane Matthew over the Caribbean region. Hurricane Matthew roared across the southwestern tip of Haiti with 145 mph winds Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, uprooting trees and tearing roofs from homes in a largely rural corner of the impoverished country as the storm headed north toward Cuba and the east coast of Florida. (NOAA via AP)

Rescue workers in Haiti have struggled to reach cut-off towns and learn the full extent of the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew as the storm began battering the Bahamas and triggered large-scale evacuations along the US East Coast.

At least 11 deaths were blamed on the powerful storm during its week-long march across the Caribbean, five of them in Haiti.

But with a key bridge washed out, roads impassable and phone communications down, the western tip of Haiti was isolated and there was no full accounting of the dead and injured in Matthew's wake.

After moving past Haiti, Matthew rolled across a corner of Cuba and then began pounding the southern Bahamas with winds of 120 mph and heavy rain on a course expected to take it near the capital city of Nassau.

Forecasters said the storm could hit Florida - or come dangerously close - late on Thursday or early Friday and then scrape the East Coast up to the Carolinas over the weekend.

Matthew could become the first major hurricane to blow ashore in the US since Wilma slashed across Florida in 2005.

On Tuesday, Matthew swept across a remote area of Haiti with 145 mph winds, wrecking homes and swamping roads. But government leaders in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere said they were not close to fully gauging the effect in the flood-prone nation where less powerful storms have killed thousands.

"What we know is that many, many houses have been damaged. Some lost rooftops and they'll have to be replaced, while others were totally destroyed," Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph said.

Mourad Wahba, the UN secretary-general's deputy special representative for Haiti, said at least 10,000 people were in shelters and hospitals were overflowing. He called the hurricane the biggest humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of 2010.

Aid groups with representatives in the area said it was clear that many homes and crops were destroyed but that the extent was impossible to gauge, especially in the Grand Anse area on the southern tip, which took a direct hit.

"We have people in Grand Anse that we cannot reach," Hervil Cherubin, country director for Heifer International, a non-profit that works with local farmers.

While the capital, Port-au-Prince, was essentially back to normal, there was still widespread flooding across southern Haiti.

"There's absolutely nothing we can do to protect ourselves here," said motorcycle taxi driver Joseph Paul as he watched torrents of brown water wash over a road and deluge his low-lying neighbourhood in Leogane. "This storm was too much for us, and we are at its mercy."

The US government said it sent experts to Haiti to assess the damage and is providing 1.5 million US dollars (£1.1 million) in food and other disaster assistance.

Later, officials in Haiti say they were indefinitely postponing a presidential election scheduled for Sunday because of the damage from Hurricane Matthew.

The hurricane also blew across the sparsely populated tip of Cuba overnight, destroying dozens of homes in Cuba's easternmost city, Baracoa, and damaging hundreds of others.

People stood amid the rubble of their homes, weeping, hugging or staring stunned into the distance. Others scoured piles of concrete and rebar for any possessions they could recover. Some carried cooking pots and rolled-up mattresses through the streets on their way to a shelter.

"I've never seen something like this in my life," said Elva Perez, 55, as she stood by what remained of her home. "For more than 200 years, here in this house, nothing like this has ever happened."

At the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the storm knocked down trees and caused road flooding but no injuries or major damage, said Julie Ripley, a spokeswoman.

Along the East Coast, people boarded up beach homes, some schools closed and residents began clearing out.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley announced plans to evacuate a quarter-million people from the coast, not counting tourists.

Florida's Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, asked some 150,000 residents in low-lying areas or mobile homes to move to safety.

Florida Governor Rick Scott urged other coastal residents potentially in harm's way to leave as well.

"If you're able to go early, leave now," he said.

AP

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