U.S. officials brace for powerful hit from Hurricane Matthew

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Rescue workers in Haiti are struggling to reach victims of Hurricane Matthew tonight, while officials in the southeastern U.S. are urging residents to get ready.  The big storm is churning north, with sustained winds of 120 miles an hour.

For Haiti, it shapes up as the worst disaster since the devastating earthquake of 2010.  In the port city of Les Cayes, already-flimsy homes are now piles of debris, and people are wading through knee-deep water.

MAN:  Our homes are completely destroyed.  We have lost everything.  We need help as fast as possible.  We cannot be left behind.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Other towns are cut off, while the U.N. reports at least 10,000 people are in shelters, and hospitals are full.

In the capital, Port-au-Prince, the River Grise was close to topping its banks today.

Charles Patrick Almazor spoke to us from Port-au-Prince.  He's with Partners in Health, an international aid organization.

CHARLES PATRICK ALMAZOR:  Because of the flooding, we expect more cases of cholera and more cases of diarrhea-related diseases.  So, we are trying to get prepared for that.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The disaster prompted Haitian officials to postpone the presidential election, set for next week.

From Haiti, the storm rolled across the sparsely populated eastern tip of Cuba, and destroyed dozens of homes in Baracoa.

WOMAN (through translator):  It was a disaster.  Everything was a disaster.  There is nothing left here.  This was like never seen before.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Next on Matthew's path, the Bahamas.  It pounded the southern islands with heavy rain all day, and the eye could reach Nassau tomorrow morning.  By Thursday night, the storm is expected to be off South Florida.  Then, over the weekend, it's on course to whirl up the East Coast toward the Carolinas, before veering back out into the Atlantic.

Florida Governor Rick Scott says the state may see its largest evacuation ever.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.):  Regardless if there's a direct hit or not, the impacts will be devastating.  I cannot emphasize it enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  In South Carolina, people flocked for water and supplies today, and Governor Nikki Haley announced a scaled-back plan to evacuate a quarter-million people.  President Obama added his own warning at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  I want to emphasize to the public this is a serious storm.  If there is an evacuation order in your community, you need to take it seriously.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  If it does make landfall, Matthew would be the first major hurricane to strike the U.S. mainland since 2005.

Recently in Nation