Ike leaves Cayman safe

| 09/09/2008

(CNS): UPDATE — While other places were not so lucky, Hurricane Ike passed the Cayman Islands at its closest point around 4:00 pm yesterday without incident, while the centre was located at 116 miles north of the Sister Islands. By the time it passed Cayman, Ike had decreased in intensity and was a category 1 hurricane. (Left  Turks & Caicos)

Hazard Management discontinue the warning for the Sister Islands and the watch for Grand Cayman but warned that squally weather and rains bands would continue to affect the Cayman Islands throught today.

At 8:00 am today, the centre of Ike was located 40 miles south of Havana as it rolled along the southern Cuban coast at around 13 mph. Maximum sustained winds were near 80 mph with higher gusts. Strengthening is forecast once Ike moves into the Gulf. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 195 miles from the centre.

Prior to landing in Cuba, Ike caused mass destruction across the Turks and Caicos Islands where some 80% of properties are said to be destroyed. Akin to Cayman’s own experience four years ago with Hurricane Ivan, the popular tourist island destination  was closed to visitors today and expects to stay that way for some time. Nearly every building, including the airport control tower sustained some damage as Ike hit as a Category 4 hurricane.

Hurricane Ike then hit Cuba today with torrential rain and gale-force winds, demolishing houses, crushing crops and threatening Havana.  Mass evacuations of residents and tourists were carried out. More than 1.8 million people were moved away from coastal areas in eastern and central Cuba and more than 9,000 foreign tourists were evacuated from the resort of Varadero east of Havana, officials said.

The hurricane killed more people in the beleaguered nation of Haiti, where a series of vicious storms has triggered a humanitarian crisis where people have spent days in the floodwaters and mud. Most roads remain impassable, with bridges torn away by overflowing rivers and gaping holes preventing aid from moving by land. Hard-hit Gonaives, north of the capital, remains cut off by land. A Red Cross truck trying to reach Les Cayes on Haiti’s southern coast had to turn back.

Government officials said on Monday the death toll stands at 312 people in four tropical storms in less than a month – and is sure to rise. A US Navy hospital ship equipped with helicopters and amphibious boats arrived in the capital to deliver food and water to cities still marooned by flooding.

UN soldiers and other international aid groups were able, for another day, to distribute some food and high energy biscuits in a warehouse in Gonaives on Monday. Peacekeepers had to beef up security to maintain order, with the UN blue helmets guarding the entrance to the warehouse to prevent looting.

International aid groups have also warned of a secondary disaster caused by water-borne illnesses and other problems in the days and weeks ahead, and have appealed for donations to sustain a lengthy response in the storm-ravaged country.

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