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Saturday, September 11, 2004

BBC > Hurricane Ivan slams into Jamaica

One of the most powerful hurricanes in Jamaica's history is pounding the island with heavy rains and high winds.
Waves around two-storeys high were reported on Jamaica's exposed eastern shores several hours before the eye of Hurricane Ivan was expected to hit.
Prime Minister PJ Patterson declared a state of emergency and the national electricity grid was shut down leading to black-out across the island.
Troops are patrolling the streets but there have been reports of looting.
Hurricane Ivan has already left a massive trail of damage in the Caribbean, killing at least 27 people, mostly in Grenada.
Winds have increased in the last few hours to 155mph (250km/h). Forecasters warn it is now an extremely dangerous category four, on a scale of five, and could well intensify.
Looting fears
Half a million people in low-lying areas - a fifth of the population - were urged to evacuate homes and head for shelters on Friday.
Although many of the 1,000 shelters had filled up, some residents were loathe to leave their homes for fear of looting, reported the BBC's Ian Pannell in Kingston.
Grenada: At least 17 dead
Venezuela: 5 killed
Dominican Republic: 4 killed
Tobago: 1 killed
The eye of the hurricane is expected to reach land at around 0200 local time on Saturday (0700 GMT), but the driving rain and intense gusts of howling wind began on Friday afternoon.
Correspondents said heavy downpours caused flash flooding, forcing many people to flee their homes.
Some roads had become impassable and there were already reports of widespread damage.
The electricity grid was shut down for safety reasons, and only a skeleton service was in operation.
"The wind is driving horizontally into the house and water is coming in through the shutters," Sian Halliwell, in Kingston, wrote in an email to BBC News Online on Friday evening.
"There are trees and leaves everywhere and some palm trees in the garden have fallen over."
Prime Minister Patterson earlier urged Jamaicans to keep calm but to "prepare for the worst case scenario".
'Ivan the Terrible'
Hurricane Ivan threatens to be the worst natural disaster to hit Jamaica for 50 years.
At 0300 GMT the hurricane - dubbed Ivan the Terrible by Jamaicans - was about 35 miles (55km) south-south-east of Kingston, the US National Hurricane Center said.
It is said to be moving at a speed of 11mph (18km/h) towards Jamaica. The Cayman Islands are also in its path.
Cuba is also facing hurricane warnings, and the south-eastern United States is also under threat.
A mandatory evacuation has been imposed in Florida Keys with more than 60,000 people - already storm-weary after two major hurricanes in the last month - asked to leave their homes.
So far the place hardest hit by Hurricane Ivan has been the tiny island of Grenada.
The first deliveries of aid supplies arrived on the island but the International Red Cross said more than two-thirds of Grenada's 95,000 inhabitants were now homeless. It has called for more donations.
Grenada's Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, whose official residence was destroyed, told the BBC the island was "90% devastated" and he had declared a national disaster.
BBC FM in Jamaica will be off air until Hurricane Ivan has passed. Listeners can follow BBC World Service on shortwave frequencies 6195 and 15190 between 0300-1000 local time and on 5975 between 1600-2000 local time.

Story from BBC NEWS: /pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas /3646528.stm

Published: 2004/09/11 04:58:41 GMT


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