Hurricane Matthew seen from space

Nasa provides dramatic images from the International Space Station of Hurricane Matthew which has intensified and is en route to Haiti.

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - NASA has provided dramatic images from space of Hurricane Matthew which intensified on Monday (Oct 3) and was menacing Haiti.

Thousands of Haitians were still in vulnerable coastal areas ahead of the hurricane, which experts say threatens "catastrophic" damage from 220 kph winds and up to 1 metre of rain over the country's denuded hills.

The centre of Matthew, a violent Category 4 storm, is due near southwestern Haiti on Monday night, the US National Hurricane Center said.

The slow-moving cyclone has veered from targeting Jamaica directly but is forecast to bring gale-force winds and dump hazardous amounts of rain on the island.

In the US state of Florida, Governor Rick Scott warned residents that, if the the hurricane were to suddenly change its path and hit the US East Coast, the potential damage to his state would be 'catastrophic'.

"We haven't had something like this on the East Coast in a long time and you really need to be prepared," he said during a news conference.

In both Jamaica and Haiti, authorities shut the main airports to wait for the storm to pass.

In Cuba, which Matthew is due to reach on Tuesday, evacuation operations were well underway, with most tourists in the eastern town of Santiago de Cuba moved inland and given instructions on where to shelter in hotels during the hurricane.