Hurricane Matthew: Florida governor tells people to get out now as 'it will kill you'

Hurricane Matthew has already killed at least 26 people as it crossed the Caribbean

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The governor of Florida has issued a stern warning to citizens to flee from the path of a powerful hurricane bearing down on the state, declaring: “Get out, get out, get out.”

Governor Rick Scott said around 1.5m people in the state were under evacuation orders as Hurricane Matthew crossed the Bahamas and set course for Florida.

“This storm will kill you. Time is running out,” he said, speaking on Thursday morning. “Palm Beach is the first big place that will be hit. If you don’t want 100-150 winds…These are winds that can destroy well-built homes. On the east coast, millions will lose power.”

The governor issued his warning about the strengthening Hurricane Matthew at around 8am. At that point, the storm was situated 215 miles south east of West Palm Beach and moving northwest toward the state at 12 mph, according to USA Today.

Mr Scott said the storm would likely bring winds as strong as 150 mph, storm surges up to 9 feet and and widespread power outages.

At least 26 people were killed as the storm passed the Caribbean (AP)

He said while it was still possible that the storm could change course the last minute, it was too dangerous for people to risk their lives by staying in an area that had been designated part of the evacuation zone.

“We must prepare for a direct hit,” said Mr Scott, who said he had added 1,000 National Guard troops to the 2,500 troops already deployed. “Don’t take a chance. Time is running out. We don’t have much time left.”

The storm is currently measured as a Category 3 hurricane, with winds up to 125 mph, but is forecast to intensify to a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds from 130 mph to 156 mph.

The governors of South Carolina and North Carolina have also declared states of emergency along the coast in anticipation of high-winds and life-threatening storm surges as high as nine feet in some areas.

The storm has already killed at least 26 people as it passed the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. It is currently battering the Bahamas and is forecast to approach the Florida coast on Thursday night. Any slight deviation could mean it making landfall, or heading further out to sea. 

Haiti in crisis after Hurricane Matthew hits, by admin

Either way, forecasters say it will come close enough to wreak havoc along the lower part of the East Coast, dumping up to 15 inches in rain in some spots. Storm surge of five to eight feet was expected along the coast from central Florida into Georgia, the Associated Press said.

“Everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit,“ said Mr Scott. “If Matthew directly impacts Florida, the destruction could be catastrophic and you need to be prepared.”

Mr Scott said he was lifting all tolls on roads, meaning that people had no reason not to leave. In many areas cars queued for fuel and residents stocked up on food and hardware supplies to board up their houses

Schools, universities and government offices in some areas are closed. Flights are disrupted, with American Airlines canceling all services in and out of three South Florida airports.