UPDATE Sunday 9am
A HURRICANE Watch is in effect for the south east Bahamas, including Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Ragged Island, Long Cay, Samana Cay, and the Turks and Caicos Islands from Sunday morning.
A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions could affect the alerted islands within 48 hours, the Bahamas Department of Meteorology said.
A Hurricane Alert remains in place for the north west and central Bahamas, including Long Island, Cat Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador, the Exumas, Eleuthera, New Providence, Andros the Berry Islands, Bimini, Grand Bahama and Abaco.
At 8pm on Sunday, Matthew - a powerful category 4 hurricane - was centred about 335 miles south south west of Port Au Prince, 265 miles south east of Kingston, 458 miles south of Inagua and 742 miles south south east of New Providence. With maximum sustained winds of 150mph, Matthew was forecast to remain a powerful hurricane through Monday night.
With maximum sustained wind speeds of 145mph, Matthew was moving at 5mph towards the north west and forecast to turn north later on Sunday. It is expected to impact Jamaica and southwestern Haiti on Monday. Hurricane force winds extend out to 35 miles from the centre and tropical storm force winds to 205 miles from the centre.
Residents throughout the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands should continue to prepare for hurricane conditions which could begin to affect Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Ragged Island, Long Cay, Samana Cay and the Turks and Caicos Islands by late on Tuesday with tropical storm conditions possible by early on Tuesday.
Extensive to severe flooding can be expected as Matthew is forecast to produce up to 25 inches of rain as it passes through the Bahamas. Small craft are advised to seek safe harbour.
A HURRICANE Alert is in effect for the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, the Department of Meteorology announced on Saturday night.
A Hurricane Alert means that hurricane conditions could affect the islands within 60 hours. Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, was centred about 360 miles south south west of Port Au Prince, Haiti, 600 miles south south east of Ragged Island and 837 miles south south east of Nassau at 8pm on Saturday.
Matthew was reported to be stationary but a slow move to the north west was expected later on Saturday night, followed by a turn towards the north north west with an increase in forward speed expected on Sunday and a turn towards the north on Monday.
Maximum sustained winds are 150mph with higher gusts.
The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said Matthew was expected to drop potentially "life-threatening" rainfall in Haiti along with gusting winds and dangerous surf in the poverty-stricken nation and other parts of the Caribbean.
Hurricane Warnings were issued for Jamaica and most of Haiti on Saturday night as Matthew barrelled toward the coast. The storm wasn't expected to make landfall until Monday, but the NHC warned that time was running out to prepare for Matthew's arrival.
Tropical storm conditions would hit Haiti and Jamaica on Sunday, the NHC said, "making outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion."
Southern Haiti could expect more than 15 inches of rain, with up to 40 inches in some areas, while 20 inches could fall in Jamaica.
In Jamaica, high surf began pounding the coast and flooding temporarily closed the road linking the capital to its airport. Carl Ferguson, head of the marine police, said people were starting to heed calls to relocate from small islands and areas near rural waterways.
Storm surges in Jamaica could reach two to four feet above normal tide levels, while in Haiti they could reach five to eight feet, according to the centre. And in Cuba, the storm surge could swell to 11 feet.
Parts of Cuba and the Dominican Republic could expect up to 25 inches of rain, which could cause life-threatening flash-floods and mudslides.