Hurricane Matthew edged closer to Haiti on Monday, bringing 130- mile-per-hour (215 kph) winds and torrential rain that could wreak havoc in the Caribbean nation, although some 2,000 people in one coastal town refused to evacuate, Reuters reported.
Matthew was about 245 miles (3955 km) south-southeast of Jamaica's Kingston early on Monday and moving north toward Haiti. The hurricane center ranked it at Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.
Matthew's center is expected to near southwestern Haiti and Jamaica on Monday night, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Crawling towards Haiti's Les Cayes, Jamaica and Cuba at five miles per hour (seven kph), the storm could be just as slow leaving, giving its winds and rain more time to cause damage."We are worried about the slow pace of Hurricane Matthew, which will expose Haiti to much more rain, and the country is particularly vulnerable to flooding,"
said Ronald Semelfort, director of Haiti's national meteorology center.
In Haiti, some streets were already flooded in Les Cayes, a town of about 70,000 people that was previously ravaged by hurricanes in 1781 and 1788.
But Haitian officials said about 2,000 residents of the La Savane neighborhood of Les Cayes refused to heed government calls to move out of their seaside homes, even though they were just a few miles from where the center of the hurricane is forecast to make landfall.
Poor Haitians are at times reluctant to leave their homes in the face of impending storms, fearing their belongings will be stolen after they leave.
Only a few families had opted to move to a high school in La Savane, designated as a shelter for up to 600 people. It was without electricity and lit only by candlelight.
In Jamaica too, officials were scrambling to protect the vulnerable, as residents boarded up windows and flocked to supermarkets to stock up on food, water, flashlights and beer.
In Cuba, which Matthew is due to reach on Tuesday, evacuation operations were well underway, with people voluntarily moving their belongings into neighbors' houses or heading to shelters. Some even found cliff-side caves they said were the safest places to ride out storms.