Matthew goes north af­ter 500 deaths in Haiti

Jack­sonville could face more floods

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT MALONE and GABRIEL STARGARDTER

ORLANDO: Hur­ri­cane Matthew, car­ry­ing winds of 190km/h, lashed cen­tral Florida yes­ter­day, hug­ging the At­lantic coast as it moved north and threat­en­ing more de­struc­tion af­ter killing nearly 500 peo­ple in Haiti.

Matthew, the first ma­jor hur­ri­cane to threaten a di­rect hit on the US in more than a decade, trig­gered mass evac­u­a­tions along the coast from Florida through Ge­or­gia and into South Carolina and North Carolina.

South­ern parts of Florida es­caped the brunt of the storm overnight, but au­thor­i­ties yes­ter­day urged peo­ple fur­ther north not to be com­pla­cent. The Florida coastal city of Jack­sonville could face sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing, Florida gov­er­nor Rick Scott warned. The storm had cut power to some 600 000 house­holds, he said.

In Haiti, where poor ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties were rav­aged by Matthew ear­lier this week, the death toll surged to at least 478 peo­ple yes­ter­day, as in­for­ma­tion trick­led in from re­mote ar­eas pre­vi­ously cut off by the storm, of­fi­cials said.

At 8am EDT (1200 GMT), Matthew’s eye, or cen­tre, was 55km east of Cape Canaveral in Florida, home to the coun­try’s main space launch site.

“The winds are fe­ro­cious right now,” said Jeff Piotrowski, a 40-year-old storm chaser from Tulsa, Ok­la­homa, who was near Cape Canaveral early yes­ter­day. The storm downed power lines and trees and de­stroyed bill­boards in Cape Canaveral, he said.

No sig­nif­i­cant da­m­age or in­juries were re­ported in West Palm Beach and other com­mu­ni­ties in south Florida where the storm had brought down trees and power lines ear­lier in the night, CNN and lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

But Craig Fu­gate, direc­tor of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, said in me­dia in­ter­views he was con­cerned rel­a­tively light da­m­age so far could give peo­ple fur­ther north a false sense of se­cu­rity.

“Peo­ple should not be look­ing at the dam­ages they’re see­ing and say­ing this storm is not that bad,” Fu­gate told NBC. He also said peo­ple should be aware the hur­ri­cane car­ried more than just fe­ro­cious winds. The real dan­ger still is storm surge, par­tic­u­larly in north­ern Florida and south­ern Ge­or­gia. “These are very vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas. They’ve never seen this kind of da­m­age po­ten­tial since the late 1800s.

“It’s still a very dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

Nasa and the US Air Force, which op­er­ate the Cape Canaveral launch site, had taken steps to safe­guard per­son­nel and equip­ment. A team of 116 em­ploy­ees was bunkered down in­side Kennedy Space Cen­tre’s Launch Con­trol Cen­tre to ride out the hur­ri­cane.

In West Palm Beach, street lights and houses went dark and In­ter­state 95 was empty as the storm rolled through the com­mu­nity of 100 000 peo­ple.

Matthew less­ened in in­ten­sity on Thurs­day night and into yes­ter­day morn­ing, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­tre said. From an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous Cat­e­gory 4 storm, it be­came a Cat­e­gory 3 on the five-step Saf­fir-Simp­son scale of hur­ri­cane in­ten­sity, but was still a ma­jor storm.

It could ei­ther plough in­land or tear along the At­lan- tic coast through yes­ter­day night, the Mi­ami-based cen­tre said, warn­ing of “po­ten­tially dis­as­trous im­pacts”.

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

The NHC’s direc­tor, Rick Kn­abb, said that although Matthew was so far rak­ing the coast, with its eye off­shore, it still posed great dan­ger to res­i­dents along the coast.

“You don’t have to be near the cen­tre of the hur­ri­cane to be in the cen­tre of ac­tion with in­land flood­ing,” he said. – Reuters


A res­i­dent walks past a wall of sand­bags pro­tect­ing a store in a low-ly­ing area be­fore the ar­rival of Hur­ri­cane Matthew, in Charleston, South Carolina, US.


A man tries to re­pair his home de­stroyed by Hur­ri­cane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Thurs­day.

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