The storm has triggered mass evacuations along the coast from Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina. Photograph: (Getty)
The United States is sending a Navy ship to Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, as the death toll expected to rise further
The death toll caused by Hurricane Matthew surged to at least 842 on Friday in Haiti and threatened more destruction further north.
The first major hurricane to threaten a direct hit on the United States in more than a decade lashed central Florida on Friday.
Carrying winds of 120 miles per hour, the storm triggered mass evacuations along the coast from Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina.
Southern Florida escaped the brunt of the storm overnight, but US President Barack Obama and other officials urged people farther north not to get complacent.
“I just want to emphasiSe to everybody that this is still a really dangerous hurricane, that the potential for storm surge, loss of life and severe property damage exists and people continue to need to follow the instructions of their local officials over the next 24, 48, 72 hours," Obama told reporters after a briefing with emergency management and other officials.
The Florida coastal city of Jacksonville could face significant flooding, Florida Governor Rick Scott warned.
Governor Scott has urged some 1.5 million people in coastal areas of Florida to evacuate and he continued to urge people to move away from danger on Friday.
"You still have time to evacuate. There's no reason to be taking risks," Scott told NBC`s "Today" program. "The most important thing to me is that we don`t lose one life."
As of Friday morning, about 22,000 people were in Florida shelters and more moved inland or to the state's west coast, Scott said.
Poor rural communities in the Caribbean country of Haiti were ravaged by Matthew earlier this week. The entire southern part of the country was inundated by torrential rains and buffeted by violent winds that lasted for hours as Matthew made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday.
Cellphone networks were down and roads were flooded by sea and river water in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.
Aid has been slow to reach towns and villages around the peninsula. Instead, locals have been helping each other.
"My house wasn't destroyed, so I am receiving people, like it`s a temporary shelter," said Bellony Amazan in the town of Cavaillon, where around a dozen people died. Amazan said she had no food to give people.
Information has slowly started to trickle in from remote areas previously cut off by the storm.
A US defence official on Friday said the United States is sending a Navy ship to aid Haiti.
"The USS Mesa Verde has received an order to support the Southcom humanitarian effort in Haiti," the official said. Its 300 Marines will add to the 250 personnel and nine helicopters already ordered to deploy to Haiti.
The final storm toll in Haiti is expected to rise even higher, with mass destruction reported across the south of the country.
(WION with inputs from agencies)