Hurricane Matthew barrels across Caribbean toward Jamaica

A powerful Category 4 hurricane was threatening lives and properties across a large swathe of the Caribbean as it slowly moved westward toward Jamaica on Saturday.

Hurricane Matthew was downgraded from a rare Category 5 storm after its maximum sustained winds weakened slightly to 250 kilometres per hour (km/h), the US National Hurricane Centre said.

Matthew was moving away from Colombia at 11 km/h toward Jamaica, where it was forecast to approach late Sunday after making an abrupt tack to the north.

Parts of Jamaica could see 65 centimetres of rain, posing the risk of flash floods and mudslides.

Tropical storm conditions were expected for the next several hours across northern portions of Colombia and Venezuela. The hurricane centre also warned of life-threatening swells along the coasts of countries across the region.

The US National Hurricane Centre had briefly upgraded Matthew to a Category 5 major hurricane late Friday, and said it was the strongest in the Atlantic since Felix in 2007.

It is predicted to pass over Jamaica on Monday and also lash Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas over the coming days.

Jamaica's meteorological service issued a hurricane watch and said the island's residents should watch out for exceptionally high waves and dangerously high water.

It is not yet clear whether Matthew will hit the US Atlantic coast. The hurricane centre's current weather model forecasts it passing close by later this week.

Matthew became the fifth hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic season on Thursday.

Last update: Sat, 01/10/2016 - 15:48

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