NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Hurricane Sandy raged through the Bahamas early yesterday after leaving 29 people dead across the Caribbean, including one in Jamaica, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm to hit the United States 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 one 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 five 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.
Yesterday 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-south-east of Charleston, South Carolina. Sandy was moving north-west 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 yesterday 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.
“We have holes in roofs, lost shingles and power lines are down,” said Charlene Bain, local Red Cross president. “But nobody lost a life, that’s the important thing.”
Steven Russell, an emergency management official in Nassau, said docks on the western side of Great Inagua island had been destroyed and the roof of a government building was partially ripped off.
There were no reports of injuries at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, but there were downed trees and power lines, said Kelly Wirfel, a base spokeswoman.