Hurricane Matthew surged in power on Friday to become the Caribbean's strongest storm in nine years as it moved towards Jamaica and Cuba with winds of up to 160 miles per hour (260 kph) powerful enough to wreck houses, forecasters said.
Matthew was about 440 miles (710 km) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) designated it as a Category 5, the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.
The strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean since Felix in 2007 was forecast to make landfall as a major storm on Monday on Jamaica's palm-fringed southern coast, home to the capital and Jamaica's only oil refinery. It could affect the island's main tourist areas such as Montego Bay in the north.
"The government is on high alert," said Robert Morgan, Director of Communications at the prime minister's office.
"We hope that the hurricane does not hit us, but if it does hit us, we are trying our very best to ensure that we are in the best possible place."
Local disaster coordinators, police and military have been put on standby and shelters are being opened throughout the island, Morgan said.