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Archive for Monday, September 8, 2008

Havana prepares for blow from Ike

Cuban capital could take direct hit; Haiti reeling from new rainfall

September 8, 2008

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Hundreds of thousands of Cubans on Sunday evacuated to shelters or higher ground as Hurricane Ike barreled their way. The Category 3 storm hit eastern Cuba late Sunday, and was forecast to sweep across the country and possibly hit the capital, Havana, head-on by tonight.

Where Ike goes after Cuba was hard to predict, leaving millions from Florida to Mexico worrying where it will strike and preparing for the worst. Residents of the Florida Keys fled up a narrow highway on Sunday, fearful that the "extremely dangerous" hurricane could hit them Tuesday.

Earlier Sunday, Ike pummeled the Bahamas' Great Inagua island, home to about 1,000 people and about 50,000 West Indian flamingos - the world's largest breeding colony. Both populations sought safety from the winds and driving rain, with the pink flamingos gathering in mangrove thickets. Biologists worried that their unique habitat could be destroyed.

The first islands to bear Ike's fury Sunday were the Turks and Caicos, which have little natural protection from storm surges that reached up to 18 feet. Widespread damage was reported on both islands.

In Haiti, still struggling to recover from previous storms, at least 58 people died as Ike's winds and rain swept the country. The nation's death toll from four tropical storms in less than a month rose to at least 300. Tolls from other parts of the Caribbean were not available late Sunday night.

One thing became clear Sunday - fears of a Hanna-Ike-Josephine hurricane trifecta are now officially unfounded. Tropical Storm Josephine dissipated into thunder showers over the Atlantic Ocean.

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