339 dead in Hurricane Matthew

Officials warn residents to evacuate as the 'most powerful storm in 118 years' prepares to strike southeast US.

Chana Roberts ,

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As Hurricane Matthew sweeps northwest from the Bahamas to America's beaches, winds may be as strong as 230 kilometers per hour.

US President Barack Obama has already declared state of emergency in South Carolina and Georgia.

About 339 people have been killed so far in the Caribbean Islands. Most of the deaths were caused by falling trees, flying debris, or the area's overflowing riverbeds.

Matthew is expected to be the worst hurricane to hit the Caribbeans and Florida since 2007.

Already, thousands of those who chose to weather the storm in pre-prepared shelters, found themselves without food or water. There's also a serious shortage of doctors, since some local hospitals have closed and non-locals cannot reach the affected areas.

Currently, Matthew is still a level 4 hurricane, but an ABC News weatherman has estimated that it will be rated a 5 in the end, with winds of 250 km/h.

Coastal Roche-a-Bateau, a commune in the Sud Department of Haiti with over 16,000 residents, is described as "devastated," and at least 50 people have been reported dead. .

"I've never seen anything like this," Louis Paul Raphael, a central government representative in Roche-a-Bateau, told Reuters.

Florida Gov. Scott said this could be the largest evacuation that Florida has ever experienced.

"Time's running out. Leave. There's no excuses," Scott said at a news conference this morning. "This is life and death."

FEMA also encourages all residents to take evacuation orders seriously.

President Obama said in a press conference reported by CNN, "We anticipate not only is there a chance the core of the storm strikes Florida and some of the states further north, but even if you don't get the full force of the hurricane we are still going to be seeing tropical force winds and the potential for storm surge and that could have a devastating effect."

He added, "If you get an evacuation order, just remember that you can always rebuild, you can always repair property but you cannot restore a life that is lost and we want to make sure we minimize any possible loss of life or risk to people in these areas."

According to the US National Weather Service, the storm could be the most powerful to strike northeast Florida in 118 years.



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