Sunday, September 7, 2008

VIDEO:Hurricane Ike Threatens Islands

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Caribbean braced for Hurricane Ike

Emergency measures are being taken in the Caribbean as Hurricane Ike sweeps in, just days after Tropical Storm Hanna passed through the region.

Ike has regained strength after weakening, with winds of up to 135mph (215km/h) as it nears the Turks and Caicos islands and the Bahamas.

Cuba has issued a hurricane watch for its eastern provinces.

Haitian officials have said that at least 500 people have been found dead as floodwaters caused by Hanna recede.

That storm has hit the US south-east coast and is dropping torrential rain on North and South Carolina.

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Bahamas prepares for Hurricane Ike

Storm warnings are in force along the Atlantic coast from Georgia to New Jersey.

Hurricane Ike gained strength to Category Four on the Saffir Simpson scale - an "extremely dangerous hurricane" - after weakening slightly earlier on Saturday, said the Florida-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

As of 0000 GMT, Ike was about 60 miles (105km) east of Grand Turk Island, tracking west south-west at 12mph.

The NHC said the storm was expected to pass near or over the Turks and Caicos islands and the south-eastern Bahamas late on Saturday or early Sunday.

The Turks and Caicos' prime minister, Michael Misick, warned of the dangers of staying in low-lying areas as the storm approached.

"Ike is an extremely dangerous hurricane and it is now clear that it will strike the Turks and Caicos islands later today," he said.

"Those more vulnerable, those living in low-lying coastal areas should be planning to move soon to shelters or safer locations with family and friends on higher ground," Mr Misick added.

"Anyone intending to remain in low-lying areas will be placing their lives and the lives of others at risk."

Cuba threat

After Hanna pummelled the low-lying Turks and Caicos, a British territory to the north of Haiti, earlier in the week, many residents and visitors decided to leave.

Authorities decided to close the airport in Providenciales at mid-day on Saturday.

Ike should hit the northern coast of eastern Cuba by late Sunday or early Monday, according to the NHC forecast.

If it stays on its projected course, Ike will cut across the island from east to west, putting the crumbling colonial buildings of the capital, Havana, at risk.

A storm surge of up to 12ft (3.6m) is expected along with "large and dangerous battering waves" and heavy rainfall, the NHC said.

The centre of the hurricane is forecast to pass to the north of Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

But Haiti, already reeling from three major storms in as many weeks, will not be spared, with up to 12in (30cm) of rain due to fall.

As floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Hanna receded, Haitian officials said more than 500 people had been killed.

Hurricane Gustav last week and Tropical Storm Fay two weeks ago killed about 120 people.

Hardest hit by Hanna was the city of Gonaives, which was flooded with up to 16ft of water that has only now begun to recede.

Supplies scarce

The devastation there has been described as catastrophic.

Police said 500 people were confirmed dead but that others are still missing and the number could rise higher.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said hundreds of thousands of people had been displaced by the flooding.

The WFP has begun distributing food aid but a spokesperson said the scale of the disaster was putting their resources to the test.

Other aid workers say people's spirits are running low after the successive storms.

"Food supplies and water are scarce and the price of the food that's left is rising," said Parnell Denis from Oxfam in Gonaives.

"The morale of people staying in the shelters is so very low; I am afraid to tell them that another storm is on its way."

More bad weather will hamper the aid effort even further.

In the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, there have been no reports of major damage.

However, preparations are under way for the arrival of Hurricane Ike.

"The ground is saturated and some of the dams in the south-east region are fairly close to their maximum capacity," said meteorological official Gloria Ceballos.

Civil defence director Colonel Juan Manuel Mendez said Dominican troops had been put on alert.

Source: BBC

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