Rescue workers in Haiti are struggling to reach parts of the country cut off by the most powerful Caribbean hurricane in nearly a decade.

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew has forced Haiti’s presidential election this weekend to be postponed, officials say.

Thousands have been displaced and at least 10 people have died.

The US states of Florida and South Carolina are bracing for the storm, which is nearing the Bahamas.

All air and sea traffic has been halted on the islands and people have been urged to move to higher ground.

Matthew is currently a Category Three storm, but is expected to strengthen to Category Four as it hits the US coast, the US National Hurricane Center said.

It battered a remote area of Haiti – one of the world’s poorest countries, with many residents living in flimsy housing in flood-prone areas – with winds of up to 230km/h (145mph) on Tuesday.

Officials said they were not yet in a position to gauge the true extent of the damage – particularly in the Grand Anse area on the southern tip of the island, which was directly in the storm’s path.

A key bridge has been destroyed, roads are impassable and phone communications are down, officials said.

Trees fallen, banana crops uprooted and flattened, houses under water and men and women trying to get the debris out of the way.

It was noticeable how the people we passed were coping alone. There were no army or police around to help. Even the aid agencies are struggling to move around this damaged corner of the country.

A man carries a woman across a river at Petit Goave where a bridge collapsed during the rains of Hurricane

Mourad Wahba, the UN special representative for Haiti, said at least 10,000 people were in shelters and hospitals were overflowing.

“What we know is that many, many houses have been damaged,” Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph said.

“Some lost rooftops and they’ll have to be replaced, while others were totally destroyed.”

Among the damaged buildings were schools and churches due to be used as polling stations in Haiti’s election. A new date for the much-delayed vote has not yet been announced.

Flight from Florida

At least 16 people are believed to have been killed by Hurricane Matthew so far, including four killed by collapsing walls and mudslides in the Dominican Republic.

In Cuba, dozens of homes in the eastern city of Baracoa were destroyed.

In the US, President Barack Obama warned that the coming days would be dangerous and urged Americans to heed official advice.

Residents in Florida are preparing for the storm’s predicted arrival

Florida Governor Rick Scott said his state could be facing its biggest evacuation ever.

South Carolina’s Governor Nikki Haley said 250,000 people would be evacuated from coastal areas.

Map showing the world’s seven tropical cyclone basins and what the storms that form there are called – 23 October 2015

Category one: sustained winds of 74-95mph (119-153 km/h); some damage and power cuts

Category two: winds of 96-110mph (154-177 km/h); extensive damage

Category three: winds of 111-129mph (178-208 km/h); well-built homes suffer major damage

Category four: winds of 130-156mph (209-251 km/h); severe damage to well-built homes, most trees snapped or uprooted

Category five: winds of 157 mph (252 km/h) or higher; high percentage of homes destroyed, area uninhabitable for weeks or months Source: NOAA/BBC