Evacuations of some of the Bahamas’ most vulnerable islands to the south were underway Wednesday afternoon as conditions deteriorated. Matthew, a Category 3 storm, with winds of 120 mph, was blamed for 11 deaths in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as widespread flooding in the Caribbean.
Warnings were issued for most of the country’s islands, including the Inaguas, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, and Ragged Island, Long Island, Exuma, Rum Cay, San Salvador, and Cat Island. Warnings were also issued for the northwestern Bahamas: the Abacos, Andros Island, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence.
…New Providence, the country’s smallest but most populous island, was projected to get a direct hit, the first major hurricane to directly strike the island since 1929. Prime Minister Perry Christie urged residents to evacuate southern coasts and move into shelters set up across the country.
“If you live on the southern coast of any islands you will be at risk,” Christie said in a statement to the Nassau Guardian. “Seriously consider now moving to higher grounds. Natural phenomena can be violently unpredictable.”
Christie said he hoped people would heed the evacuation advisory but said the government is prepared to force people out of their homes if it is warranted.
New Providence, where 85 percent of the country’s residents live, includes the nation’s capital city, Nassau. The Bahamas have a population of 370,000 and more than 700 islands, cays and islets, not all of them inhabited.