Hurricane Matthew: Tens of thousands homeless

Hundreds of people have been killed in the wake of the strongest storm to hit the Caribbean and the United States in more than a decade.

The latest number is 842 deaths due to Hurricane Matthew, according to Reuters, with tens of thousands of people now homeless and a swathe of crops destroyed.

Many more people are missing or unaccounted for.

Officials said the number of deaths could reach the thousands.

On Saturday morning (Australian time), Hurricane Matthew continued tohead north off the northeast coast of Florida.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded the storm to a Category 2 hurricane, and as of 5 p.m. ET Friday, Matthew was located 40 miles east of Jacksonville Beach, Fla., moving 12 mph.

The hurricane continues to pack sustained winds up to 110 mph, threatening devastating storm surges in a four-state area, USA Today reported.

At a mid-morning press conference, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the "worst effects are still likely to come," referring to a possible turn toward the coast and a likely storm surge in the Jacksonville area.

Matthew will continue to barrel north off of Florida's coast with its centre near or over the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia Friday night (US time).

The storm is then expected to turn northeast Saturday (Sunday AEDT time), with its centre near or over South Carolina.

In Georgia, more than 500,000 people fled the coastal areas for the interior and thousands sought refuge at shelters. 

The US has sent $400,000 of aid and the UK announced Friday that it would commit at least £5 million to help diaster relief.

The embassy of Haiti in Washington DC confirmed to The Independent that the much lower and official death toll number of around 300 people, according to the country's civil protection agency, was very fluid and likely to change as authorities were assessing the damage.

The agency takes longer to report fatalities as it has to visually confirm the victims itself.

In one of the poorest countries in the world, 145mph winds and heavy rain battered Les Anglais and then moved north across the peninsula on Tuesday.

High waves crashed coastal towns, battering concrete houses as well as poorly-built housing of tin and tarp.

The mayor of Les Anglais said people were fleeing for their lives as the sea rushed into their homes.

A key bridge collapsed, deadly mudslides surged on rain-soaked ground and all communication lines were down. The number of fatalities is expected to rise once communication is re-established with the hardest hit areas.

The country is still grappling with the after-effects of an earthquake and a cholera outbreak.

Damage did not just happen on the coast. In the hilly farming village of Chantal, 86 people died, according to its mayor, as trees crushed houses, and 20 people were missing.

Some 61,500 people were reported to be living in shelters this week. Deputy special representative for Haiti, Mourad Wahba, said the hospitals were overflowing and there is a shortage of fresh water. One hospital in Les Cayes had its roof blown off.

At least four people were killed in the Dominican Republican. No fatalities have yet been confirmed in Cuba.

Dramatic video footage in the Cuban city of Baracoa, however, showed how the storm had flattened buildings.

The category four storm moved north, losing strength before hitting the Floridian coast on Friday morning.

One person died in her home in Florida during the storm, the first storm-related death on mainland US to have been reported, as emergency crews could not respond to the call.

In the UK, Priti Patel, the secretary of state for international development, announced from Washington DC that the UK would commit at least £5 million in aid to Haiti, sending in the first supplies of temporary shelters for 5,000 people on Friday.