UPDATE 14-Hurricane Matthew closes in on Florida as Haiti death toll rises

viernes 7 de octubre de 2016 00:14 GYT

* Death toll rises to at least 339 in Haiti

* Mass evacuations in four U.S. states

* Storm could hit Florida directly or brush coast (Updates with number of people killed in paragraph 1 and 7, speed of winds in paragraph 2, Obama declaring state of emergency in Georgia in paragraph 23, location of storm in paragraph 26)

By Scott Malone and Gabriel Stargardter

ORLANDO, Fla./MIAMI, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Matthew, the first major hurricane threatening a direct hit on the United States in more than 10 years, closed in on Florida on Thursday after killing at least 339 people in Haiti on its destructive march north through the Caribbean.

Carrying extremely dangerous winds of 130 mph (215 kph), the storm pounded the northwestern part of the Bahamas en route to Florida's Atlantic coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Matthew's top sustained winds had dropped to 130 mph by Thursday night. But it remained a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity as it neared Florida, where it could either plow inland or tear along the Atlantic coast through Friday night, the Miami-based center said.

Few storms with winds as powerful as Matthew's have struck Florida, and the NHC warned of "potentially disastrous impacts."

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