Cayman Islands + 5 more

Hurricane Emily weakens, closes in on Jamaica

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Horace Helps
KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 15 (Reuters) - Jamaica evacuated its old pirate town, Port Royal, and other flood-prone coastal areas on Friday as Hurricane Emily drew closer, the second hurricane to threaten the Caribbean island in 10 days.

The government ordered thousands of people evacuated from homes to schools and churches as a safety precaution, many of them from Portmore, a city of 300,000 about 7 miles (11 km) west of Kingston, which routinely floods.

The small settlement of Port Royal, a bawdy hangout for the legendary buccaneers of the Spanish Main four centuries ago, was particularly vulnerable. The village, much of which was cast into the sea by an earthquake in 1692, sits at the end of a long spit of land on Kingston's harbor south of the capital.

Jamaica was still tallying the damage from Hurricane Dennis, which killed one person when it swept along the north shore on July 7. The storm's powerful core stayed offshore but heavy rain and strong waves pounded the island.

Dennis killed 70 other people in Haiti, Cuba and the United States.

"We have identified the communities that are most vulnerable to flooding and will be placing special emphasis on these," Jamaican Environment Minister Dean Peart said. "Transportation is in place to move citizens and we are stocking up the shelters with bedding, food and other items."

Authorities closed government offices early on Friday and urged businesses to send employees home. Fishermen returned to shore and secured their boats.

At 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), the center of Emily was located about 350 miles (565 km) southeast of Kingston and was moving to the west at about 20 mph (32 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Emily briefly reached Category 4 status on the five-stage Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale on Friday when its sustained winds hit 135 mph (217 kph). It had weakened to 105 mph (170 kph) by Friday afternoon.

Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and southern areas of the Dominican Republic and Haiti were under storm alerts.

Emily slammed beleaguered Grenada on Wednesday and Thursday. The tiny spice island of 90,000 people was still recovering from last September's Hurricane Ivan, which damaged 90 percent of houses and buildings and caused about $2.2 billion in damage, double Grenada's annual economic output.

One person was killed in a mudslide. The storm damaged the roofs of Grenada's general hospital and the hospital on neighboring Carriacou.

The hurricane center's forecast had Emily just south of Jamaica on Saturday and crossing the northern tip of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula on Sunday before reaching the Texas-Mexico border late on Tuesday.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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