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Harrowing reports emerge from Bahamas as storm smashes through
by Staff Writers
Nassau, Bahamas (AFP) Oct 6, 2016

Disney theme parks in Florida to close for Hurricane Matthew
Miami (AFP) Oct 6, 2016 - Florida's Walt Disney World resort is closing theme parks and other attractions as raging Hurricane Matthew bears down on the state, the company said.

"Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney Springs, miniature golf courses, water parks and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will be closed Thursday at 5 pm (2100 GMT) and will remain closed through Friday, October 7, 2016 due to the latest forecasts for Hurricane Matthew," the company said.

Walt Disney World is located in Orlando, 35 miles (55 kilometers) inland from the Atlantic.

Some three million people on the US southeast coast face urgent evacuation as Florida braces for a direct hit when Matthew makes landfall later on Thursday.

President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in Florida, as highways there and in neighboring states clogged up with people streaming inland to escape the storm blasting its way through the Caribbean.

Officials warned the Category Four hurricane will be ferocious and dangerous: beach-eroding waves as tall as two story buildings and winds strong enough to snap trees and blow away roofs or entire houses.

Hurricane Matthew's blast through the Bahamas brought harrowing reports of roofs blown off, windows shattering and water rising perilously, including a social-media post from one desperate resident who said, "I'm on a chest of drawers. Phone battery low."

The hurricane unleashed winds of nearly 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour) as it traversed the area. Witnesses said roads were littered with fallen trees and smashed fences. Utility lines were down.

Only those buildings with emergency generators escaped the dark.

The area had yet to feel the full force of the hurricane, forecasters said at midday. The winds were expected to strengthen further in the early afternoon hours before beginning to subside.

All residents have been urged to remain indoors for now.

Several residents in western and southern areas of New Providence island, an area vulnerable to sea surges and heavy flooding, ignored repeated warnings to evacuate. The island includes the capital Nassau and is home to two-thirds of the Bahamian population.

A resident in an area southeast of Nassau took to Facebook to plead for emergency rescue.

"Help!" Tamico Gilbert posted shortly before noon. "Water [is] over [the] bed now.

"I'm on a chest of drawers. Phone battery [is] low."

Resort guests at the Beach Tower at Atlantis on Paradise Island were ushered into the ballrooms of a convention center.

One employee, who declined to be named, said she screamed as she heard a loud crashing sound from the glass entrance to the lobby.

"The wind was pushing it and pushing it, and it was shaking. I screamed out as it shattered in the lobby."

Even the weather forecasters at the Nassau airport were told to evacuate their offices. They were loaded into a fire truck and moved to a safer building nearby, where they were able to resume their work.

Hurricane Matthew has caused at least 108 deaths in Haiti and widespread destruction in Cuba, to the south of the Bahamas.

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