More than 400 people are believed dead after Hurricane Matthew, the largest storm to hit the Caribbean in a decade, battered the island nation of Haiti on Thursday and Friday. The towns of Roche-a-Bateau and Jeremie were badly affected, the BBC reported. The strong winds and rain caused rivers to swell, and trees and buildings to collapse, leading to most of the casualties.

The southwest coasts of the country was worst hit, as electricity and cell phone reception was cut off. Bodies started surfacing on the water late Thursday night. Aid helicopters have started arriving from neighbouring countries. The Haitian presidential elections scheduled for Sunday have been postponed, and a cholera warning has been sent out.

Hurricane Matthew made landfall in the United States on Friday, a day after President Barack Obama on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Florida and South Carolina. The Florida governor also urged 1.5 million residents to evacuate the state, fearing that the hurricane may intensify into a deadly storm when it makes landfall, and would lead to “catastrophic damage”. “There are no excuses, you need to leave,” said Governor Rick Scott.

In its afternoon bulletin, the US National Hurricane Center said hurricane Matthew was now a category 3 storm, but warned people of its "extremely dangerous” impact. It said that wind speed has gone down from 140 miles per hour to 120 miles per hour, but that the gust has gained strength. “Although some additional weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, Matthew is expected to be a powerful Category 3 hurricane as it moves near the coast of Florida,” reads the statement.

According to the Weather Channel, more than 12 million people in US are at risk and warnings have been issued to them.

After the state of emergency was declared, thousands of National Guard troops moved in and are on stand-by. Shelters have been put up in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to accommodate evacuees. Emergency response teams have also kept supplies in stock, reported Reuters.

Officials estimate that around 10,000 people in Haiti have taken refuge in shelters, while residents of regions that fall in the path of the storm are stocking up on fuel and food. Several American airlines have cancelled flights, while some schools and government offices remain shut. According to ITV, health officials are fearing cholera outbreak in Haiti after hurricane Matthew damaged water supplies and the sanitation system.

In the Bahamas, no fatalities were reported. Authorities rescued at least 30 people trapped in their inundated homes in New Providence island, reported the Associated Press. Roads were blocked by uprooted trees and power lines were snapped. However, the situation in Nassau was worse and authorities could not assess the damage.