By Alexia Fernández
Updated October 06, 2016 11:46 AM
Credit: AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

Hurricane Matthew left around 15 dead in the Caribbean this week as Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked President Barack Obama to declare an emergency declaration in 26 counties on Wednesday.

Scott deployed 1,000 more Florida National Guard members to join the 1,500 already stationed in the state. He’s suspended all tolls in the directed areas to “keep traffic flowing as residents continue to evacuate,” according to Scott in a Tweet.

The hurricane was downgraded to a Category 3 storm, but forecasters predict Matthew will gain force as it makes its way to Florida, likely to strengthen to a Category 4 storm.

Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated on Wednesday in Florida and South Carolina as Matthew continued on it’s path of destruction across Haiti and Cuba.

“The eye of Hurricane Matthew is going to be much closer to Florida,” Scott said Wednesday night in a statement. “There are hurricane watches and warnings along Florida’s entire east coast and we now have Tropical Storm warnings on Florida’s Gulf Coast. This storm is serious and protecting life remains our number one priority.”

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley gave evacuation orders for the coastal counties of Charleston and Beaufort. Matthew’s threat is severe enough to force schools and government offices in 25 counties to close on Wednesday.

The 15 people who died during the storm were in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to CNN.

Haiti, which is still recovering from the 2010 catastrophic earthquake, was hit the hardest as thousands were displaced.

Mourad Wahba, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Haiti, depicted Matthew as the “largest humanitarian event” since the earthquake, according to CNN.

During a briefing at the Brevard County Emergency Operations Center in Rockledge, Florida, Scott urged residents to evacuate early.

“There is absolutely no excuse not to evacuate,” he said. “If you’re able to leave early, go now. We can rebuild your home. We can rebuild your business. We cannot rebuild your life.”