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25634: (news) Chamberlain: Hurricane Dennis kills 10 in Cuba, 22 in Haiti (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Anthony Boadle
HAVANA, July 8 (Reuters) - Hurricane Dennis roared through the
Caribbean on Friday, leaving 10 dead in Cuba and 22 in Haiti before aiming
for Havana on a course toward the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, where oil rigs and
vulnerable coastal areas were evacuated.
The storm weakened slightly as it crossed Cuba but the U.S. National
Hurricane Center in Miami said Cuban meteorologists had reported a 149-mph
(240 kph) gust that caused extensive damage in the city of Cienfuegos.
Cuban President Fidel Castro said Dennis had already killed 10 people
as its outer bands brushed over Cuba's southeastern corner Thursday night.
Storm fatalities are rare in Communist Cuba where the authorities can
muster all state resources to evacuate hundreds of thousands from the path
Most of the victims died in collapsed houses in Granma province,
Castro said on state television. An 18-day-old baby was among those who
On Friday, the storm's sustained winds of 135-mph (215 kph) ripped up
trees and downed electricity lines in Cienfuegos and U.S. forecasters said
Dennis was threatening the capital Havana, where many live in decrepit
The U.S. Hurricane Center said the eye of Dennis would head into the
eastern Gulf on Friday evening and skirt the Florida Keys on Saturday
before taking aim at the U.S. Gulf Coast.
It was the strongest Atlantic hurricane to form this early in the
season since records began in 1851. Tourists and residents hurried to leave
the fragile, low-lying Keys in long lines that became a familiar picture in
2004 when Florida was struck by four hurricanes in a row.
In southern Haiti, many people fled their flooded homes and the mayor
of Grand-Goave, Marie Hingreed Nelchoix, said 17 people had died in and
around her city, including 15 thrown into a swollen river when a bridge
Four people died around the southeastern city of Jacmel, said a civil
protection official. Earlier officials had reported that a young man was
killed when a tree fell on a house near Les Cayes.
At 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT), Dennis was located about 75 miles (120 km)
east-southeast of Havana, and was moving northwestward at 17 mph (28 kph).
In the U.S. Gulf, a slew of energy companies said they were pulling
workers off oil rigs and shutting down some crude and natural gas
Dennis was on a similar trajectory as last September's Hurricane Ivan,
which caused extensive damage to pipelines and rigs. The U.S. Gulf provides
about a quarter of U.S. oil and natural gas and the threat of Dennis has
helped keep U.S. crude futures prices near record highs above $60 a barrel.
The storm was expected to regain some strength once it leaves the
Cuban mainland and returns to open water, and U.S. forecasters said they
expected it to still be a major hurricane, capable of causing serious
damage, by the time it reaches the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday or early on
U.S. authorities ordered residents to evacuate Key West and the lower
part of the Florida Keys, which are connected to the southern tip of
mainland Florida by a single highway.
NASA decided on Friday to leave space shuttle Discovery on its launch
pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, but continued to watch Dennis closely. A
decision to roll Discovery back to its hangar would have delayed the
scheduled Wednesday launch, the first shuttle mission since the Columbia
disaster in 2003.
Dennis drenched Jamaica on Thursday, triggering mudslides that blocked
roads as the core of the storm moved north of the mountainous Caribbean
island of 2.6 million. About 3,000 people moved to storm shelters in
It also soaked the Cayman Islands, a tiny British territory and
banking center with 43,000 residents. Hurricane Ivan damaged or destroyed
70 percent of the buildings on Grand Cayman Island last year.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva in Port-au-Prince, Michael
Christie and Jim Loney in Miami, Michael Peltier in Tallahassee and Irene
Klotz at Cape Canaveral)