A man pushes a bicycle in a flood zone after Hurricane Matthew passed through Les Cayes, Haiti. (Reuters)
CHARLESTON – South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency on Tuesday and ordered an evacuation of more than a million people in coastal areas starting Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew.
Florida and Georgia have also called states of emergency for a storm that has pounded the Caribbean with 145 mile-per-hour winds and surging seas and was expected to start affecting U.S. coastal areas late on Thursday or early Friday.
Haley pleaded with people to get 100 miles away from the coast, but did not say if there would be penalties for those who refuse to comply.
“We don’t do voluntary or mandatory anymore. An evacuation is an evacuation,” Haley told reporters.
By declaring a state of emergency, Haley can mobilise 1 800 members of the National Guard.
Highways will have all traffic lanes directed away from the coast for the evacuation, and the state will close schools and county government offices in 26 of the state’s 46 counties staring Wednesday.
Matthew will be a Category 2 or Category 3 hurricane when it brushes or hits South Carolina on Friday night, she said. Officials anticipate 100 mph winds and five- to seven-foot (1.5- to 2-metre) storm surges in coastal South Carolina, she said.
Heavy storms in South Carolina last October killed at least 17 people.
Several coastal schools, universities and municipalities, including the city of North Charleston, announced they would close starting on Wednesday. (Reuters)