The governor of Florida has warned people not to attempt to surf waves caused by Hurricane Matthew, as thousands of people fled the path of the devastating storm.

Governor Rick Scott, who has issued a state of emergency in Florida and ordered mandatory evacuations in some coastal towns, said 1,500 members of the National Guard had been activated, with thousands on standby.

He said at a news conference on Wednesday (5 October) in comments carried by NBC News: "We have to prepare and assume we will have a direct hit by this catastrophic hurricane.

"Please do not go to the beach and try to surf. This can kill you and we cannot save you. Wind strength is our biggest concern, regardless if the storm directly hits or not."

Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall in the US by Thursday evening, and is predicted to hit Florida first before moving up to the Carolinas and Georgia, although its trajectory is difficult to predict exactly.

The storm, which was a category five hurricane when it blew through Haiti leaving a wake of devastation and at least eight people dead, is now a category three hurricane, but the impact will depend on how close the centre of the storm comes to land.

In South Carolina, officials said at least 250,000 people have been evacuated, with motorways packed as residents attempt to get inland – where hotels are reportedly fast becoming fully booked by people seeking temporary accommodation.

Meanwhile, across much of the southeast coast, residents are stocking up on supplies, with queues reported on petrol pumps and at food and hardware stores as people attempt to stockpile water, torches and other emergency supplies.