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Sandy pounds Bahamas after killing 29 in Caribbean

Friday, October 26, 2012 | 9:41 AM    

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NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Hurricane Sandy raged through the Bahamas early Friday after leaving 29 people dead across the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm to hit the US East Coast with a super-storm next week.

Sandy knocked out power, flooded roads and cut off islands in the storm-hardened Bahamas as it swirled past Cat Island and Eleuthera, but authorities reported no deaths in the scattered archipelago.

"Generally people are realising it is serious," said Caroline Turnquest, head of the Red Cross in the Bahamas, who said 20 shelters were opened on the main island of New Providence.

Sandy, which weakened to a category 1 hurricane Thursday night, caused havoc in Cuba Thursday, killing 11 people in eastern Santiago and Guantanamo provinces as its howling winds and rain toppled houses and ripped off roofs. Authorities said it was Cuba's deadliest storm since July 2005, when category 5 Hurricane Dennis killed 16 people and caused $2.4 billion in damage.

Sandy also killed one person while battering Jamaica on Wednesday and 16 in Haiti, where heavy rains from the storm's outer bands caused flooding in the impoverished and deforested country. Police in the Bahamas said a 66-year-old man died after falling from his roof in upscale Lyford Cay late Thursday while trying to repair a window shutter.

On Friday morning, the hurricane's centre was about 15 miles (25 kilometres) east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 480 miles (770 kilometres) south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina. Sandy was moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph) with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (130 kph).

Government officials in the Bahamas said the storm seems to have inflicted the greatest damage on Exuma, where there were reports of downed trees, power lines and damage to homes.

With the storm projected to hit the Atlantic coast early Tuesday, there was a 90 per cent chance that most of the US East Coast would get steady gale-force winds, flooding, heavy rain and maybe snow starting Sunday and stretching past Wednesday, US forecaster Jim Cisco said.

A new tropical storm watch was issued early Friday for a section of the US East Coast extending from Savannah, Georgia, northward to North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Sandy was expected to remain a hurricane almost until reaching the US shoreline, probably early Tuesday.

In the Bahamas, power was out on Acklins Island and most roads there were flooded, government administrator Berkeley Williams said.

On Ragged Island in the southern Bahamas, the lone school was flooded.

In an announcement at the end of Cuba's Thursday night newscast, Cuban authorities said the island's 11 dead included a four-month-old boy who was crushed when his home collapsed and an 84-year-old man in Santiago province.

In Haiti, Joseph Edgard Celestin, a spokesman for the civil protection office, said the country's death toll stood at 16, including some who died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. He did not provide specifics of how other people died.

Officials reported flooding across Haiti, where many of the 370,000 people still displaced by the devastating 2010 earthquake scrambled for shelter. More than 1,000 people were evacuated from 11 quake settlements, according to the International Organization for Migration.

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