The steady march of Hurricane Matthew has left more than 1 million customers in Florida without power, state officials said, as the storm moved north along the US east coast after killing hundreds of people in Haiti. The updated totals were released on Friday as the powerful storm, now downgraded to a Category 2, headed towards the state of Georgia, still packing wind gusts of up to 100 km per hour. A woman in her late 50s suffered a medical emergency and died in her home in central Florida’s St. Lucie County, as high winds prevented rescue workers from reaching her, a Florida fire department spokeswoman told AFP news agency. At Cape Canaveral, strong winds lashed NASA’s rocket launch facility, forcing power outages and damaging roofs, the US space agency said.
Rockets, spaceships and crucial equipment for the US space programme and private companies like SpaceX are all stored in the area, which is home to the Kennedy Space Centre. President Barack Obama urged residents in the path to heed emergency officials’ warnings, adding that although there has already been “significant damage”, storm surge and flooding are still a major concern. “People should listen to their local officials,” if they urge them to move away from storm surges, Obama said.
“We can always replace property,” but we cannot replace lives, he told reporters following a briefing with his top federal emergency and security officials.