Hurricane Ivan kills at least 14 in Caribbean
At 1200 GMT, Ivan was some 735 kilometers (455 miles) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
Overnight, it was upgraded to a Category Five hurricane, the top level on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale.
"Some fluctuations in strength are likely today," the center noted Thursday.
The "extremely dangerous" hurricane was moving to the west-northwest at 24 kilometers (15 miles) per hour, with hurricane-force winds extending up to 95 kilometers (60 miles) outward from its eye.
Ivan should "remain well to the north of Aruba during the next several hours ... and then continue on route toward the area near Jamaica," the center said.
Storm surges of 1.0 to 1.5 meters (three to five feet) as well as rains of 13 to 18 centimeters (five to seven inches) were expected.
Hurricane warnings remain in effect for Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Jamaica is under a hurricane watch, which will likely be upgraded to a warning later Thursday, the center said.
Twelve people have been confirmed killed on Grenada after a Hurricane Ivan tore across the spice island, and the toll is expected to climb, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency said. "This is the biggest single-island diaster" the Barbados-based CDERA has responded to "because almost all of the island is wrecked," CDERA spokesman Terry Ally told AFP from Bridgetown.
Ally said the confirmed death toll on the devastated island in the southeast Caribbean was 12 but "they do expect the death toll to rise."
Grenada is a tiny island nation of 90,000 inhabitants, which Prime Minister Keith Mitchell said was 85 percent destroyed. Power lines were down and hundreds of people have taken refuge in shelters.
Mitchell, whose own official residence was destroyed, told a Trinidad radio station that the island is without electricity.
Another woman was killed by a falling tree in Tobago, according to local media.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning headed to Tobago to view the destruction. His government has promised 1.6 million dollars to St. Vincent to help with construction. Hundreds were evacuated to shelters.
Cuba has also begun preparing for the storm in 11 of its 14 provinces, although the island has not fully recovered from Hurricane Charley, which struck August 13.
Children in the Netherlands Antilles were sent home from school, as were many workers.
In Venezuela, a man was crushed to death when hurricane-force winds toppled a wall in a coastal town near Caracas, emergency service officials said, adding that another person was hurt and 150 people were affected by flooding.
Several Venezuelan airports, including Maiquetia, which serves Caracas, were closed for a few hours Wednesday due to high winds. They reopened later, but authorities have warned they could shut them down again if conditions worsen.
The storm was expected to remain off the central coast, triggering heavy rains and rough surf. The capital, Caracas, lies just a bit inland from there, protected somewhat by the El Avila mountain range.
Though the storm is not expected to make landfall in Venezuela, Interior and Justice Minister Jesse Chacon was urging calm and said heavy winds and rain associated with the storm could last for 72 hours.
Ivan was expected to pass just north of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao on Friday as the Caribbean islands were under a hurricane warning, which means hurricane winds could hit them within 24 hours, the US hurricane center said.
A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning remain in effect for the Guajira peninsula of Colombia and for the entire northern coast of Venezuela, it noted. Haiti also issued a hurricane watch, meaning it could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours.
Copyright (c) 2004 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 09/09/2004 10:26:27
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