Cayman Islands + 6 more

Jamaica a hurricane target once again

By Horace Helps

KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 15 (Reuters) - For the second time in 10 days, Jamaica battened down on Friday for a strong hurricane as Emily raced across the Caribbean Sea and revved up into a threatening 125 mph (200 kph) storm.

Jamaican authorities told the island's 2.6 million people to make hurricane preparations and drew up plans to use buses and other public transportation to evacuate residents from flood-prone lowlands.

Hurricane Dennis killed one person when it struck Jamaica on July 7, when its strong winds and storm surge hammered the island although the powerful core stayed just off the north shore. Dennis killed 70 people in Haiti, Cuba and the United States.

"We still do not know the extent of damage in monetary terms caused by Dennis, but we have to put in some corrective action so as not to worsen matters in the event that Emily hits," Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said.

At 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), the center of Emily was located about 465 miles (750 km) east-southeast of Kingston and was moving to the west-northwest 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). But it had weakened slightly by midday.

Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and parts 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.

The storm damaged the roofs of Grenada's general hospital and the hospital on neighboring Carriacou. Authorities said one person died in a mudslide.

In Trinidad and Tobago, rivers burst over their banks and some houses were damaged as Emily swept past. No disruptions were reported in oil and natural gas operations.

The hurricane center's long-range 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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