'They're getting everything a major hurricane can throw at them' - deadly Hurricane Matthew slams into Haiti with 145mph winds
Hurricane Matthew has roared into the south-western coast of Haiti, threatening a largely rural corner of the impoverished nation with devastating storm conditions.
The dangerous category four storm made landfall around dawn local time on Haiti's southern peninsula, where many people live along the coast in shacks of wood and corrugated steel that stand little chance of withstanding the force of the system's maximum sustained winds of 145mph.
Matthew is also expected to bring 15-25in of rain, and up to 40in in isolated places, along with a 10ft storm surge and battering waves.
Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami, said: "They are getting everything a major hurricane can throw at them."
The storm is moving along the Windward Passage between Haiti and Jamaica, where it is also dumping heavy rain that has caused flooding in parts of the country. It is heading for south-eastern Cuba and then into the Bahamas.
The hurricane centre said it is likely to issue a tropical storm watch or hurricane watch for the Florida Keys or the Florida peninsula, as Matthew could create dangerous beach conditions along the US east coast later in the week.
As dawn broke in Haiti, people in the south coast tourist town of Port Salut described howling winds and big waves slamming on to the beaches and washing over the coastal road.
"The winds are making so many bad noises. We're just doing our best to stay calm," said resident Jenniflore Desrosiers as she huddled with her family in her fragile home, which has sprung numerous leaks from pelting rain.
Haiti's civil protection office said a number of south coast towns partially flooded overnight. Landslides and downed trees on roads are preventing movement in numerous areas. The few places that are on the electrical grid have apparently lost power and mobile phone service is patchy.
Haitian officials had spent Monday trying to persuade shanty town residents to take advantage of shelters being set up. But many had refused to leave their homes, saying they feared their meagre possessions might be stolen.
Cuba's government has declared a hurricane alert for six eastern provinces and workers have removed traffic lights from poles in the city of Santiago to stop them falling as the winds hit.
At one point a category five storm, and the region's strongest hurricane since Felix in 2007, Matthew is expected to make landfall in Cuba about 50 miles east of the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where authorities have evacuated about 700 spouses and children of service members.