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SHAKE AND BLOW
US coast evacuated as historic hurricane bears down
By Kerry Sheridan, with Leila Macor in Jacksonville
Miami (AFP) Oct 7, 2016


Harrowing reports emerge from Bahamas as storm smashes through
Nassau, Bahamas (AFP) Oct 7, 2016 - Hurricane Matthew's blast through the Bahamas brought harrowing reports of roofs blown off, windows shattering and water rising perilously, including a social-media post from one desperate resident who said, "I'm on a chest of drawers. Phone battery low."

But there were no reports of fatalities from the National Emergency Management Agency.

After the storm passed and headed northwest towards Florida, residents emerged from their homes to assess the damage, which was not as bad as expected.

Many buildings had roof damage, but the integrity of the roofs and buildings had not been compromised.

Storm surges from Matthew caused several feet of water to come inland but flooding stopped short of entering homes.

Roads were littered with downed power lines and trees. Some were impassable.

The hurricane unleashed winds of nearly 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour) as it traversed the area.

Only those buildings with emergency generators escaped the dark.

Earlier, several residents in western and southern areas of New Providence island, an area vulnerable to sea surges and heavy flooding, ignored repeated warnings to evacuate. The island includes the capital Nassau and is home to two-thirds of the Bahamian population.

A resident in an area southeast of Nassau took to Facebook to plead for emergency rescue.

"Help!" Tamico Gilbert posted shortly before noon. "Water [is] over [the] bed now.

"I'm on a chest of drawers. Phone battery [is] low."

Resort guests at the Beach Tower at Atlantis on Paradise Island were ushered into the ballrooms of a convention center.

One employee, who declined to be named, said she screamed as she heard a loud crashing sound from the glass entrance to the lobby.

"The wind was pushing it and pushing it, and it was shaking. I screamed out as it shattered in the lobby."

Even the weather forecasters at the Nassau airport were told to evacuate their offices. They were loaded into a fire truck and moved to a safer building nearby, where they were able to resume their work.

Hurricane Matthew caused at least 264 deaths in Haiti, news reports said, and widespread destruction in Cuba, to the south of the Bahamas.

Florida is facing the most dangerous storm in living memory as Hurricane Matthew barrels in from the Atlantic threatening coastal cities with surging tides, torrential rain and 130 mile-an-hour winds.

After cutting a deadly swath across the Caribbean and leaving at least 264 dead in Haiti, the Category Four storm was to crash up against the southeastern United States early Friday.

Over the course of the day it will scour its way up a 600-mile (965-kilometer) strip of coast from Boca Raton in Florida to just north of Charleston, South Carolina, driving seawater and heavy rain inland.

Only a handful of hurricanes of this strength have ever made landfall in Florida, and none since 1898 has threatened to scythe its way north along low-lying, densely populated coast into Georgia and beyond.

Evacuation orders were issued for areas covering at least three million residents and major cities like Jacksonville, Florida and Savannah, Georgia lay in the path of the terrible storm.

Daytona Beach imposed a curfew that was to last until dawn on Saturday, and President Barack Obama declared emergencies in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, promising federal aid.

As the first bouts of heavy rain and powerful gusts arrived at seafront resorts presaging the storm beyond, more than 90,000 homes and businesses in Florida had lost power.

Matthew has already battered Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas and US officials are taking no chances, warning that loss of life is a virtual certainty.

"This storm is a monster," declared Florida's Governor Rick Scott. "I want everybody to survive this. We can rebuild homes. We can rebuild businesses... We can't rebuild a life."

- Storm surge -

Matthew was churning over the ocean 50 miles off Grand Bahama Island at 11:00 pm on Thursday (0200 GMT) and heading towards Florida and South Carolina at 13 miles per hour.

By 2:00 am on Friday it is expected to be off Port St Lucie, threatening Florida's beaches and ports with sustained winds of up to 130 miles-per-hour and gusts of up to 160.

"And when you get the wind you will get immediate flooding, strong rip current, beach erosion. The risk of tornados," Scott warned.

"Think about this: 11 feet (3.3 meters) of possible storm surge. And on top of that, waves. So if you are close, you could have the storm surge and waves over your roof."

Highways were jammed with people streaming inland to escape the storm, forecast to be strong enough to snap trees and blow away roofs or entire houses.

As US gas stations ran dry, frantic shoppers flocked to stores for batteries, transistor radios, bread, canned goods, bottled water, ice and pet food.

Poor and vulnerable Haiti remained essentially cut in half two days after Matthew hit, with routes to the devastated south blocked by flooding. Local radio cited at least 264 dead.

At least four people -- three of them children -- were killed in Haiti's neighbor the Dominican Republic and more than 36,500 were evacuated, with 3,000 homes destroyed, flooded or damaged.

The wealthier Bahamas, which had more time to prepare, was less badly hit and there were no reports of fatalities, but there were power outages, some roads were cut and there was property damage.

- Ghost resorts -

In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the normally bustling resort turned into a ghost town as tourists loaded up cars, cut short vacations and fled north.

Officials complained a worrying number of people were not heeding evacuation orders, and many communities set up storm shelters.

The fire service in St Augustine, northern Florida, issued a video message on Facebook warning that damage to the city was expected to be "catastrophic" and urging all holdouts to leave their homes.

"We as a city are evacuating," said Fire Chief Carlos Aviles.

"If you are choosing to stay in St Augustine, you are choosing to do so at your own risk. There will be no public safety personnel to assist you."

The largest shelter in the quaint beach city had reached its capacity of 500 people, and authorities turned frustrated residents back into the rain, pillows under their arms.

Miami International Airport canceled 90 percent of its incoming and outgoing flights on Thursday and Walt Disney World -- in Orlando, 35 miles inland -- was to stay shut on Friday.


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Previous Report
SHAKE AND BLOW
Harrowing reports emerge from Bahamas as storm smashes through
Nassau, Bahamas (AFP) Oct 6, 2016
Hurricane Matthew's blast through the Bahamas brought harrowing reports of roofs blown off, windows shattering and water rising perilously, including a social-media post from one desperate resident who said, "I'm on a chest of drawers. Phone battery low." The hurricane unleashed winds of nearly 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour) as it traversed the area. Witnesses said roads were l ... read more


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