Evacuations in Caribbean as fierce Hurricane Matthew looms
By Makini Brice and Rebekah Kebede
KINGSTON/PORT-AU-PRINCE Oct 1 (Reuters) - Haiti has began evacuating residents by boat from outlying islands in preparation for Hurricane Matthew, the fiercest storm to cross the Caribbean for years that threatens to wreak widespread damage in the region with flash floods and high winds.
Matthew, with winds at about 150 miles per hour (240 kph), is expected to make landfall as a major storm on Jamaica's southern coast, home to the capital, Kingston, and its only oil refinery. Stormy weather could begin on Sunday.
Simultaneously. the storm is forecast to lash southern Haiti, dumping up to 40 inches (101 cm) of rain there and up to 25 inches (64 cm) in Jamaica, possibly triggering life-threatening landslides and floods, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Albert Moulion, Haiti's interior ministry spokesman, said authorities had started voluntary evacuations of residents of small, exposed sandy islands in the south as a precaution.
"We have already started evacuations," he said. "The national center of emergency operations has been activated."
By early Tuesday, Matthew is due in eastern Cuba, with a path that could take it over the colonial city of Santiago de Cuba and the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo.
The U.S. ordered the mandatory evacuation of approximately 700 spouses and children from the base on Saturday, saying it was airlifting them to a station in Pensacola, Florida. Cuban President Raul Castro visited Santiago de Cuba on Saturday to oversee storm preparations, Cuban TV footage showed.
The ferocity of the storm, the strongest in the Carribbean since Hurricane Felix in 2007, has led to concerns of economic devastation in the poor countries in its path. Continuación...