Washington, Oct 6 (efe_epa).- The United States President on Thursday signed an emergency declaration for Florida and South Carolina as Category 4 Hurricane Matthew approaches.
The declarations signed by Barack Obama makes federal aid available to help respond to the emergency conditions caused by Matthew, which is now heading towards Florida after crossing the Bahamas and is expected to reach South Carolina by the weekend.
Obama’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and to provide assistance for required emergency measures, according to the White House.
Southeastern Florida began to feel the effects of Hurricane Matthew, which strengthened to a category 4 storm and is packing winds of over 220 km/h.
The deadly storm killed at least 264 people in Haiti and wide destruction in other Caribbean countries and is expected to make landfall somewhere in northeast Florida early on Friday before moving north.
South Carolina’s governor Nikki Haley today urged coastal residents that have not yet evacuated to abandon the coastal areas before the arrival of the hurricane this weekend.
According to the latest figures, about 280,000 people have already evacuated in that state but Haley added: “We need more people evacuating.”
About a hundred shelters were opened in schools in twelve counties in South Carolina.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has predicted that Matthew will hit South Carolina as a Category 2 storm after arriving in Florida as Category 4 storm.
Florida governor Rick Scott authorized the deployment 1,000 additional members of the National Guard, bringing the total to 3,500, to assist with evacuations, search and rescue operations and asked the federal government for additional resources to help cope with the situation.
“Following the most recent weather briefing from the National Hurricane Center, we can expect to have a lot of flooding, especially in Northeast Florida, and we will need additional pumping equipment from the federal government,” said Scott.
Scott urged the 1.5 million residents living in the evacuation zone to “evacuate, evacuate, evacuate” but there are no official figures on how many have actually left their homes before the arrival of Matthew.
Schools, universities, government institutions and shops across the coastal zone of the two states are now closed and several sports events have already been canceled.
Hurricane Matthew, which reached the highest Category 5 on Oct. 1, is the most powerful hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean since Felix in 2007.