Hurricane Matthew weakened slightly on Saturday as it moved towards Jamaica and Cuba, although with winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 kph) it is powerful enough to wreck houses, forecasters said.
The strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean since Felix in 2007 was forecast to make landfall as a major storm on Monday on Jamaica’s southern coast, home to the capital and Jamaica’s only oil refinery. It could affect the island’s main tourist areas such as Montego Bay in the north.
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With Matthew about 420 miles (675 km) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, the U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded its designation to a Category 4, from the top Category 5, on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, but Jamaican authorities said they were taking all possible precautions.
“The government is on high alert,” said Robert Morgan, director of communications at the prime minister’s office.
“We hope that the hurricane does not hit us, but if it does hit us, we are trying our very best to ensure that we are in the best possible place.”
Local disaster coordinators, police and military have been put on standby and shelters are being opened throughout the island, Morgan said.
Despite sunny weather and only a few scattered clouds, many Kingstonians stocked on water and food on Friday.
The centre of the storm will move away from the Guajira Peninsula early Saturday morning, across the central Caribbean Sea on Saturday and approach Jamaica late on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.