NASSAU, Bahamas ., Oct. 4, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Bahamas is preparing for Hurricane Matthew, which is expected to approach the southern Bahamas later today.
The Islands Of The Bahamas are now under hurricane watch, which means that hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (BMOT) is making final preparations and coordinating its efforts ahead of the storm.
The BMOT has fully activated its Emergency Coordinating Committee at the British Colonial Hilton in Nassau in preparation for Hurricane Matthew. The committee represents a cross-section of the Ministry of Tourism's staff that includes senior management and other officers who will monitor the storm's movements.
BMOT's crisis management team is liaising with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), the Port Authority and other relevant authorities.
"The Bahamas is a place where the world comes to vacation. As we prepare to face the impending hurricane, what is of critical importance to us is the safety of our residents and visitors," Ministry of Tourism Director General, Joy Jibrilu said.
"We are praying for the best outcome, and once the all clear is given, we will turn our attention to assisting with recovery efforts, if necessary, and also to sending the message to the world that The Bahamas is once again open for business."
It is important to note that The Bahamas is an archipelago with more than 700 islands and cays, spread over 100,000 square miles. Given the expanse of our archipelago, there could be a tropical storm or hurricane warning for the southern islands and the central and northern islands remain unaffected. However, weather forecasts project that Hurricane Matthew is likely to affect most of our islands.
Regarding airlift, the Lynden Pindling International Airport will close on Wednesday, October 5 at 11 a.m.
Here in New Providence, and on Paradise Island, there are over 3000 visitors. Those numbers are expected to diminish ¬ as visitors are evacuated from our islands in advance of the storm.
There are 593 visitors throughout the Family Islands: seven visitors on Abaco; two on Eleuthera; two on North Andros; 21 on San Salvador; eight on the Berry Islands; 153 on Bimini, and 400 in the Exumas. Shelters have been opened on each of the islands and officials are moving to ensure that guests either evacuate or take shelter.
Airports in the Family Islands will close today and include the airports in Inagua, Ragged Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, Mayaguana and Long Island.
Approximately 1600 guests are being evacuated from Grand Bahama Island today. The Grand Bahama Airport Company said it will close on Wednesday, October 5 at noon and will resume operations on Saturday, October 8 at 6 a.m.
All cruise ships have now re-routed away from ports in The Bahamas to other destinations. The Port Department has advised that the Port of Nassau closed at noon today. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force will take charge of the facility and will be responsible for its reopening.
At 5:00 p.m. today Hurricane Matthew, was a category four storm with winds up to 140 miles per hour and is expected to move over Eastern Cuba in the next few hours.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to turn toward the north-northwest on Wednesday. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.
The BMOT is maintaining contact with all of its offices, representatives and visitors in the Family Islands as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
The Islands Of The Bahamas will be releasing updates on the tracking of Hurricane Matthew on Bahamas.com/storms but we encourage everyone to access the National Hurricane Center and the Weather Channel for latest updates.
For more information on Hurricane Matthew, and The Islands Of The Bahamas, travel professionals and consumers are advised to access the following: The National Hurricane Center at nhc.ncoaa.gov and the Weather Channel at www.weather.com.
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Source:Bahamas Ministry of Tourism