Hundreds of people are getting ready to be airlifted out of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay as powerful Hurricane Matthew heads toward Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica.
The Navy says people staying at the base and military detention center on the eastern end of the island of Cuba are being told to take shelter, and a mandatory evacuation of non-essential personnel is under way. That includes 700 family members of military personnel.
Scores of prisoners are still held at the detention center and about 5,500 people live on the base.
Matthew is the strongest hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean since Felix in 2007. With maximum sustained winds of 240 kilometers per hour and higher gusts, Matthew is expected to remain a powerful storm through Sunday.
The storm is expected to dump considerable rain and create chaos on parts of the Caribbean during the next few days.
In Kingston, Jamaica, residents have bought enough food for the upcoming days, but the country’s prime minister said some people will most likely ignore evacuation orders.
“Some persons will resist, so what we're trying to do is get our citizens to comply in their own interest which would certainly save resources having to be deployed in a time of emergency when it will be difficult to respond,” Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said.
Haiti has begun to evacuate residents from exposed sandy islands off the southern coast.
The storm is expected to pass through eastern Cuba and the Bahamas Tuesday into Wednesday.
The Cuban government has declared state of emergency in the five eastern provinces.
After that, meteorologists have said it's possible the hurricane will track along or near the U.S. East Coast, brushing Florida, but maintained Saturday that it is too early to tell.
Florida was hit in September by Hurricane Hermine, which made landfall on the state’s Panhandle as a relatively weak category 1 hurricane.
Weather forecasters predict rainfall of 25 to 38 centimeters with isolated amounts of more than 63 centimeters across Jamaica and southwestern Haiti. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said these rains may produce "life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides."
The storm has already claimed its first victim. The governor of Colombia's La Guajira department said a 67-year-old indigenous man was killed by tropical storm winds in the rural part of the country.