Hurricane Dean lashes Jamaica


Summary

"The sea has dumped debris onto the roads," Portland parish Mayor Bobbie Montague said as the storm surged by Jamaica's southern coast, on course for the nearby Cayman Islands, Mexico and possibly Texas in coming days.

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VIDEO: Dean bears down

The category four hurricane is whipping up giant surf and dumping centimetres of rain on the island. Roads were blocked by fallen trees and flooded in the eastern parts of the island, with power cuts affecting thousands of homes.

"Take this hurricane threat very seriously," Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said in a national broadcast late yesterday, trying to convince people refusing to leave their homes to evacuate the most vulnerable areas along the southern coast.

One man called a local radio station to say his roof had just blown off. The line then went dead.

Police got into a shootout with looters at a shopping centre in the central parish of Clarendon, but nobody was hurt, Constable Cheree Greaves said. Assistant Commissioner of Police Linval Bailey said curfews were in effect until tomorrow evening.

Carribean braces

The US National Hurricane Centre in its latest report at 2100 GMT (0700 AEST) placed Dean 80km from the Jamaican capital Kingston and moving along at about 32km/h.

Packing winds of up to 230km/h, Hurricane Dean "has the potential to become a category five hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean sea tomorrow" – the top strength in the scale.

It added Dean could unleash as much as 50cm of rain on Jamaica in the coming hours, and warned waves could surge seven to two to three metres above normal tide levels.

The hurricane has forced the space shuttle Endeavour to cut short its mission and cruise ships have changed course to avoid Dean.

Jamaica battered

Jamaica's airports were shut yesterday, and hundreds of people have packed into the thousand shelters opened up by the government around the island amid bitter memories of Hurricane Ivan which killed 14 people in 2004.

The prime minister called on all off-duty police officers, firefighters and prison warders to report for work, while the electricity provider was shutting down the national grid as a safety measure.

The Jamaica Public Service Company said more than 135,000 customers were without power.

There were also fears for some 17 people, believed to be Spanish divers, who had refused to leave the small sandbank of Pedro Cays, some 80km south of Jamaica, lying directly in Dean's path.

Mexico was meanwhile evacuating some 90,000 tourists from Cancun and other islands of the "Mayan Riviera", as well as some 13,000 workers on more than 140 of its oil platforms in the Gulf of

Mexico, with Dean set to slam into the Yucatan peninsula tomorrow.

A leading risk modelling company, California-based Eqecat Inc, has estimated initial losses in the Lesser Antilles islands and Jamaica at between $US1.5 billion ($A1.89 billion) and $US3 billion ($A3.77 billion).

Hurricane Dean earlier brushed past Haiti, lashing it with heavy rain and gale-force winds.

Haitian Environment Minister Jean Marie Claude Germain, who was heading to the devastated areas, said there had been huge damage to agricultural plantations because the trees had been cut down.


"The sea has dumped debris onto the roads," Portland parish Mayor Bobbie Montague said as the storm surged by Jamaica's southern coast, on course for the nearby Cayman Islands, Mexico and possibly Texas in coming days.

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VIDEO: Dean bears down

The category four hurricane is whipping up giant surf and dumping centimetres of rain on the island. Roads were blocked by fallen trees and flooded in the eastern parts of the island, with power cuts affecting thousands of homes.

"Take this hurricane threat very seriously," Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said in a national broadcast late yesterday, trying to convince people refusing to leave their homes to evacuate the most vulnerable areas along the southern coast.

One man called a local radio station to say his roof had just blown off. The line then went dead.

Police got into a shootout with looters at a shopping centre in the central parish of Clarendon, but nobody was hurt, Constable Cheree Greaves said. Assistant Commissioner of Police Linval Bailey said curfews were in effect until tomorrow evening.

Carribean braces

The US National Hurricane Centre in its latest report at 2100 GMT (0700 AEST) placed Dean 80km from the Jamaican capital Kingston and moving along at about 32km/h.

Packing winds of up to 230km/h, Hurricane Dean "has the potential to become a category five hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean sea tomorrow" – the top strength in the scale.

It added Dean could unleash as much as 50cm of rain on Jamaica in the coming hours, and warned waves could surge seven to two to three metres above normal tide levels.

The hurricane has forced the space shuttle Endeavour to cut short its mission and cruise ships have changed course to avoid Dean.

Jamaica battered

Jamaica's airports were shut yesterday, and hundreds of people have packed into the thousand shelters opened up by the government around the island amid bitter memories of Hurricane Ivan which killed 14 people in 2004.

The prime minister called on all off-duty police officers, firefighters and prison warders to report for work, while the electricity provider was shutting down the national grid as a safety measure.

The Jamaica Public Service Company said more than 135,000 customers were without power.

There were also fears for some 17 people, believed to be Spanish divers, who had refused to leave the small sandbank of Pedro Cays, some 80km south of Jamaica, lying directly in Dean's path.

Mexico was meanwhile evacuating some 90,000 tourists from Cancun and other islands of the "Mayan Riviera", as well as some 13,000 workers on more than 140 of its oil platforms in the Gulf of

Mexico, with Dean set to slam into the Yucatan peninsula tomorrow.

A leading risk modelling company, California-based Eqecat Inc, has estimated initial losses in the Lesser Antilles islands and Jamaica at between $US1.5 billion ($A1.89 billion) and $US3 billion ($A3.77 billion).

Hurricane Dean earlier brushed past Haiti, lashing it with heavy rain and gale-force winds.

Haitian Environment Minister Jean Marie Claude Germain, who was heading to the devastated areas, said there had been huge damage to agricultural plantations because the trees had been cut down.