Friday, September 5, 2008

Hurricane Ike to Spare Haiti

Abandoned dwellings stand surrounded by flood waters amid continuing rains on 2 September near Gonaives, 171 km from Port-au-Prince, in the wake of Tropical storm Hanna. AFP

Hurricane Ike was forecast to spare Haiti as it moved across the Atlantic while the Caribbean nation struggled to cope with the effects Tropical Storm Hanna which killed 136 and left hundreds of thousands stranded with no food or clean water.

The forecast path of the storm had Ike bypassing northern Haiti and heading into the Bahamas, US National Hurricane Center forecaster Karina Castillo told AFP.

"At least for now" Haiti looks likely to be spared yet another hit, she said. "Currently Hispaniola (the island shared by Haiti on the west and the Dominican Republic on the east) is out of the three-day forecast cone, but Cuba is not," she added noting that soaked northeastern Cuba could feel Ike's wrath.

"After Cuba, Ike is forecast to move into the central Bahamas and to make landfall in South Florida" on Wednesday" as a major (Category 3-to-5) hurricane Castillo warned.

Ike was downgraded slightly Friday but remained dangerous, the NHC said.

With sustained winds of 205 kilometrers per hour, the hurricane over the western Atlantic was now a category three on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale instead of a category four, but the center said Ike was "still forecast to be a major hurricane in a couple of days."

In Haiti, the country's third largest city Gonaives remained largely under water with Senator Yuri Latortue, who represents the city, calling the situation "catastrophic."

"I know perfectly well that the hurricane season has hit our entire country, but the situation in Gonaives is truly special, because now some 200 000 people there haven't eaten in three days," he said.

The impoverished country has been battered by a succession of three storms in as many weeks.

As of 0900 GMT, the eye of Hurricane Ike was about 1065 kilometres northeast of Grand Turk Island and was moving west at about 24 kilometres per hour, the NHC said.

Forecasters said it was too soon to tell definitively if it would track north toward the US eastern coastline, or westward toward Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico.

Ike was part of a trio of storms in the Atlantic, with Tropical Storm Hanna heading towards the United States this weekend and Tropical Storm Josephine churning in the eastern Atlantic off of Cape Verde.

Source: AFP - iAfrica.Com

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