By Makini BriceLES CAYES,

Haiti, Oct 3 (Reuters) – Hurricane Matthew bore down on Haiti on Monday, where towns and villages braced for “catastrophic” floods and mudslides forecasters fear will be triggered by 145 mile-per-hour (230 kph) winds and up to three feet of rain over its denuded hills.Winds and rain started pounding the southwest of the Caribbean country, but the center of Matthew, a violent Category 4 storm, was not due until the early hours of Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.It is then forecast to hit Cuba and the Bahamas and possibly reach Florida by Thursday as a major hurricane, though weaker than at present, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.”It has the potential of being catastrophic,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the Miami-based center, when asked about Matthew’s expected impact on Haiti.Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, and a combination of weak government and precarious living conditions for most of its people makes it particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. More than 200,000 people were killed when a 7-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in 2010 and many survivors are still living in flimsy, temporary accommodation.Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph said 30,000 people were in areas of risk and should be moved before the storm hits. He later said many of those had been moved.However, in Haiti’s largest slum, the seaside Cite Soleil in capital Port-au-Prince, mayor Frederic Hislain said 150,000 people whose homes he said were threatened needed to be bused to safer places.”Those people are living all along the seashore in a bunch of huts which usually can’t even really protect them from ordinary rain. Now we are talking about a strong hurricane. Imagine the disaster we may have to face here,” Hislain said.

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