Hurricane Matthew took aim at the Bahamas on Thursday after leaving behind a humanitarian crisis in Haiti.
At least 15 people died from Matthew’s wrath in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said.
Haiti, still recovering from the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, was hit the hardest. At least 1,580 homes have been flooded, and about 3,215 families have been affected by Matthew, the country’s Civil Protection Agency said. More than 300,000 people are in shelters across the country, the United Nations said.
Mourad Wahba, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Haiti, described Matthew as the “largest humanitarian event” since the earthquake.
The devastation was especially brutal in southern Haiti, where winds of 125 mph (200 kph) destroyed homes, flooded villages and cut off the island from the rest of the country.
National Route 2, which connects Port-au-Prince with Haiti’s southern peninsula, broke apart when the bridge collapsed, the country’s civil protection agency said.
As of Thursday morning, Matthew hurled 125 mph (205 kph) winds as it churned toward the Bahamas, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm was about 60 miles (95 kilometers) southeast of Nassau and was moving northwest at 12 mph.
Death toll rises
At least 15 people have died in relation to the slow-moving hurricane within the past week, officials in three countries said.
On Wednesday, Haiti’s Civil Protection Service reported 10 deaths and Four people died in the Dominican Republic, the country’s government said. Authorities there did not provide details about how they died.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a teenage boy died in a landslide as he was cleaning a drain behind his house, the National Emergency Management Office said. He died Wednesday after storms from Matthew passed.
US braces for impact
As Hurricane Matthew sets its sights on the US, more than 2 million people have already been urged to flee their homes, with more evacuations likely as the deadly storm makes its way past the Bahamas.
State officials in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia cautioned residents not to hunker down at home if they live in the hurricane’s potential path.
Not all of the millions of people in Matthew’s path have been ordered to leave, but the mandatory evacuations are the largest since Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast from North Carolina to New York in 2012.
The National Hurricane Center isn’t saying that Matthew will make landfall in Florida, but that the center of the storm will get “very near” the Atlantic Coast, possibly as a Category 4 hurricane.
President Barack Obama warned Americans in the storm’s path to pay attention and take any evacuation orders seriously. He said if the core of the storm strikes Florida, it could have a “devastating effect.”
Florida braces for direct hit
Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned 1.5 million residents they had 24 hours to get ready, or better yet, get going.
Scott has activated 1,500 National Guard members in preparation for the storm.
The voluntary and mandatory evacuations currently stretch from the Miami area all the way north to the Florida-Georgia border.
Mandatory evacuations in South Carolina
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley gave evacuation orders for the coastal counties of Charleston and Beaufort.
An estimated 250,000 residents evacuated from Charleston and Beaufort, said Kim Stenson, the director of South Carolina Emergency Management. He said as many as 200,000 people will leave Thursday.
North Carolina playing it by ear
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for more than half the state’s 100 counties. So far, though, the governor has not urged residents to evacuate.
The changing forecast now predicts the storm won’t have as great an impact on the state as once feared, and Matthew might even turn around before it gets there.
“We’re just going to have to play it by ear and have our resources ready,” the governor said.
Officials are still concerned areas in eastern North Carolina that were recently flooded will see drenching rains from Matthew.
Georgia governor: ‘Remain calm, be prepared’
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency in 30 counties on or near the Atlantic Coast.
In six of those coastal counties — Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden — Deal urged more than 500,000 residents to voluntarily evacuate.
“Remain calm, be prepared and make informed, responsible decisions,” Deal said.
Officials have placed Tybee Island, a low-lying island east of Savannah, under a mandatory evacuation.
Patrick Oppmann reported from Cuba; Holly Yan and Max Blau reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Deborah Bloom, Alexander Leininger, Alison Daye, Natalie Gallon, Catherine E. Shoichet, Keith Allen, Shawn Nottingham and Alexander Leininger and journalist Yvetot Gouin contributed.