Hurricane Matthew has moved beyond the Florida Coast, barreling north through the coast of the US states of Georgia and South Carolina, after leaving a trail of deaths and destruction in the Caribbean nation of Haiti.
Flooding began Friday evening as the storm, now a Category 2 system, slammed the coast of Georgia, inundating roads and knocking out power to more than 120,000 people.
All residents and tourists along the coast had been ordered to evacuate before the storm arrived.
US President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Friday morning and urged those affected by the storm to “pay attention” to local officials’ storm warnings.
He said the potential for storm surge, flooding and property damage “continues to exist.”
Matthew was approaching the cities of Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia with sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (165 km/h).
“There is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36 hours along the Florida northeast coast, the Georgia coast, the South Carolina coast, and (part of) the North Carolina coast,” the National Hurricane Center warned on Saturday.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal ordered the mandatory evacuation for residents in the counties of Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden, while calling for the voluntary evacuation of low-lying areas.
At 11 p.m., the storm was 45 miles (70 kilometers) south of Hilton Head, South Carolina, where authorities have ordered residents to evacuate inland to shelters.
“The center of Matthew will move near or over the coast of South Carolina this (Saturday) morning, and be near the coast of southern North Carolina by tonight,” the hurricane center said early Saturday.
Obama formally declared a state of emergency in North Carolina to allow federal aid to help local response teams as the National Weather Service extended its hurricane warning for the state.
Previous declarations had been made for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Officials in Florida said Matthew had resulted in five deaths in the counties of Lucie, Volusia and Putnam. More than one million customers were also without electricity.
Death toll soars to 900 in Haiti
Matthew devastated Haiti as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, but weakened as it barreled north toward the US mainland.
The death toll soared to nearly 900 in Haiti on Friday, a figure which could rise as outbreaks of cholera is already beginning to claim more lives.
“Due to massive flooding and its impact on water and sanitation infrastructure, cholera cases are expected to surge after Hurricane Matthew and through the normal rainy season until the start of 2017,” the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a statement.
The disease had not been reported in Haiti since a 2010 earthquake that killed some 200,000 people.