Friday, November 2, 2007

Hurricane - Dominican Republic NOV

SANTO DOMINGO (AFP) - The death toll from Tropical Storm Noel's Caribbean rampage rose to 100 on Thursday, as floodwaters hampered the rescue of people trapped on rooftops in the Dominican Republic.

Even as the deadly storm barreled over Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, its sequels still wrought havoc in the Dominican Republic Thursday, four days after it slammed into the Caribbean nation.

The death toll in that country rose to 66 people, with 27 more reported missing, officials said on Thursday.

In Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, the death toll reached 34, officials said on Thursday. A further 14 people were listed as missing.

No deaths were reported in Cuba, which was hit on Wednesday, but there was significant damage to agricultural fields.

The islands of the northwestern Bahamas were placed under a hurricane watch amid concerns the storm could strengthen as it barrels over the Atlantic Ocean.

Residents boarded up their homes and stocked up on basic goods, as schools shut down and Bahamasair grounded its flights.

Forecasters warned Noel could dump as much as 38 centimeters (15 inches) of rain on Bahamian islands.

Even after the storm left the Caribbean basin for the Atlantic Ocean, the three countries slammed by Noel earlier in the week remained on high alert.

"Rains in Hispaniola and Cuba are expected to cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," said forecaster James Franklin of the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Noel's rip through the Caribbean came at a time when dams were already full, rivers bloated and the soil saturated from weeks of rain.

Rescue officials said improved visibility made it possible for the first time on Thursday to deploy helicopters to the worst affected areas of the Dominican Republic, where surging flood waters forced people to perch on their rooftops.

Torrents of water smashed several bridges, while authorities reported that 664 homes were destroyed and a further 15,600 were damaged. In all 62,428 people have fled their homes, 21,503 of whom are staying in official shelters.

The Dominican government is seeking international emergency loans for a total of 100 million dollars to deal with the disaster, officials said.

In Haiti, the fatalities included a 14-year-old girl and her mother killed when an uprooted tree crushed their house in the capital, while several homes were swept away by floods.

"I want to appeal to the whole world .... send clothes, blankets, food, every thing you can," said Gustave Benoit, the deputy mayor of Cite Soleil, a slum in the Haitian capital that at the best of times looks like it has been hit by a powerful hurricane.

With thousands of people in need of urgent assistance, Benoit did what he could to help, handing out rice and water from his beat up car.

In Cuba, almost 1,300 homes were damaged. Some interior areas remain incommunicado due to flooded roads, and coffee crops were damaged by flooding.

Noel on Thursday morning packed maximum sustained winds of 95 kilometers (60 miles) per hour, with higher gusts, the NHC said, adding that some strengthening was possible in the course of the day.

At 1800 GMT, the center of the storm was located near Nassau and moving in a north-northwesterly direction that would take it over other islands of the Bahamas archipelago and then over open Atlantic waters.

It packed maximum sustained winds of 95 kilometers (65 miles) per hour, with higher gusts with some strengthening possible later Thursday, the NHC said. - Source

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