The most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic coast in more than a decade could also impact on the U.S. presidential campaigns just weeks ahead of the national election.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, freeing up aid to those states, where millions were instructed to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Matthew charged toward Florida.
At least 339 people were killed in the Caribbean, where the storm began before moving towards the U.S.
Hurricane Matthew is causing the worst humanitarian crisis in Haiti since 2010, when an earthquake left more than 200,000 people dead and tens of thousands homeless, according to the UN.
“The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned. “I’m going to pray for everybody’s safety.”
The National Hurricane Center downgraded Matthew to a Category 3 storm early Friday morning, warning, however, that “although some additional weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, Matthew is expected to be a powerful category 3 hurricane as it moves near the coast of Florida.”
Florida is a key battleground state that could decide the winner of the upcoming national election. Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were forced to steer clear of Florida for their own safety.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected a request from the Clinton campaign to extend the deadline for registering voters.
The Trump team pulled its negative TV ads. Addressing a town hall event in New Hampshire Thursday evening, the Republican candidate said: “Please know that we are praying for you and everyone in the path. You’ve got to take care of yourself, you’ve got to get out of the area, you’ve got to listen.”
The hurricane is expected to hit Trump’s prized Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. Campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Trump had spoken with employees to ensure they stay safe and follow instructions from local officials.
Clinton, who was speaking at fundraising events in New York, tweeted: “Hurricane Matthew is a major storm… Stay safe Florida.”
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey and New York just before the 2012 presidential election, keeping many voters away.
By: World Israel News Staff
With files from AP