Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday issued a dire warning to residents living in evacuation zones to leave immediately or risk death because of an impending hurricane set to make landfall in the state.
Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on the state, and forecasters have predicted forceful winds and a storm surge of 5 to 9 feet starting early Friday. The storm is expected to hit Florida as a Category 4 hurricane.
“If you’re watching and you’re in an evacuation area, get out,” Scott said. “Don’t take a chance. Time is running out. This is clearly going to either have a direct hit or come right along our coast and we’re going to have hurricane-force winds. There are no excuses. You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”
Scott stressed that it could be a matter of life and death.
“Are you willing to take a chance to risk your life? Are you willing to take a gamble?” he said. “That’s what you’re doing. If you’re reluctant to evacuate, just think of all the people the storm has already killed. You and your family could be among these numbers if you don’t take this seriously.”
President Barack Obama on Thursday signed an emergency declaration for Florida because of the storm, which has already killed more than 20 people in Caribbean countries. Reuters reports the death toll is now higher than 100.
“Anything more you can do to get people to know the severity of this, please do so,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, this is going to kill people.”
Scott also emphasised that the storm could be even worse than forecasters are predicting.
“Do not surf. Do not go on the beach. This storm will kill you,” he said. “These are all projections. It could be much worse. Time is running out. We are preparing for the worst, we are hoping for the best, and no one should take any chances.”
There are 2 million people living in evacuation zones in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Here’s a look at Hurricane Matthew’s latest predicted path, according to the National Hurricane Center:
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