NASSAU, Bahamas (AFP) - 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 160kmh 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 south-east 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 centre.
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.