Walt Disney World Resort, near Orlando, has been shut for the first time in 11 years

It’s usually teeming with tens of thousands of excited children and their parents – but Disney World is looking more like a ghost town with Hurricane Matthew bearing down on the state of Florida.

Disney has taken the incredibly rare step of closing the world’s most popular theme park after a state of emergency was declared and people were urged to flee its path.

With Matthew bringing powerful wind gusts and torrential rain, Disney’s flagship attraction was shut for just the fourth time ever in its 45-year history and the first time in 11 years.

Photos show the rain-soaked theme park near Orlando – famous for its Cinderella Castle, thrill rides and waterparks – completely deserted.

People leave Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park in heavy rain after it closed on Thursday Video loading

The resort closed its doors on Thursday and is scheduled to reopen on Saturday morning.

People who are staying at Disney World hotels have been told to stay indoors until the hurricane passes.

Disney World has shut just four times since 1971 – for approaching hurricanes Floyd and Frances in 1999 and Jeanne in 2004.

Dangerous #HurricaneMatthew tracks close to the east coast of Florida/Georgia while #HurricaneNicole is almost stationary over the Atlantic pic.twitter.com/2FVHgvpTPI

— Met Office (@metoffice) October 7, 2016 It’s the first time in 11 years that Disney World has closed The theme park is normally filled with tens of thousands of visitors

Florida was expecting what could turn out to be its largest evacuation ever as Matthew – a Category 3 storm as of Friday morning – barrels along the state’s eastern coast after battering Caribbean islands.

A tally by Reuters showed that the storm killed at least 339 people in Haiti and displaced thousands after demolishing homes.

Matthew is the first major hurricane threatening a direct hit on the US in more than 20 years, lashing Florida with heavy rain and winds of around 120mph.

Rex Heavy surf at Cocoa Beach, Florida, on Thursday Rex Hollywood Beach, Florida, as the first outer bands of rain passed by Destroyed houses are seen after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti

More than 140,000 households were without power.

Those who decided to ride it out were told to have enough food and water to last at least three days in case the storm was catastrophic.

It could bring a storm surge of around 9ft in some towns or cities, and the US National Weather Service warned Matthew could be the most powerful hurricane to strike north-east Florida in 118 years.