Florida declares emergency as Isaac nears

2012-08-25 21:00
Tropical Storm Isaac about 280km south of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. (Eumetsat, AFP)

Tropical Storm Isaac about 280km south of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. (Eumetsat, AFP)

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Miami - Florida declared a state of emergency on Saturday as the US state braces for Tropical Storm Isaac just two days before the opening of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Governor Rick Scott said the executive order was a "normal step" in preparing for such a storm, adding that the Tampa airport remained open and urging those attending the convention not to cancel their reservations.

"Florida's emergency responders are ready. And it's important that Florida's residents and visitors stay informed, have a plan and make preparations," he said at a press conference.

He emphasised, however, that the storm was not expected to disrupt the political proceedings in Tampa, which is north of where forecasters say the full brunt of the storm will be felt.

Tropical Storm Isaac barrelled across Haiti on Saturday, killing at least two people and raising fears of mud slides and flash floods in the impoverished country still rebuilding after a 2010 earthquake.

About 400 000 people still live in makeshift tent camps in and around the capital Port-au-Prince, raising concerns that the death toll could rise after a more complete assessment of the storm's damage.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre said Isaac will likely become a hurricane on Sunday and was on track to clip the southern part of Florida before churning north to the southern US Gulf coast.

The storm could bring high winds and heavy rains to Tampa as an estimated 50 000 people - including top officials - gather for the convention, which begins on Monday.

The gathering will include speeches, parties and pageantry, culminating in former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney formally accepting his party's nomination and laying out his case for denying President Barack Obama a second term during a prime-time address on Thursday.
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