Ivan batters Jamaica, kills two

2004-09-11 18:59

Montego Bay, Jamaica - Walls of waves crashed into seaside towns as deadly Hurricane Ivan lashed Jamaica with winds of 230km per hour on Saturday, killing two people and threatening to grow stronger, with millions more people in its projected path.

The storm, the worst to hit the region in decades, has already killed at least 29 people in Grenada, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Tobago, and triggered panic buying and mass evacuations in parts of Cuba and Florida.

Seven meter waves slammed the coastline of this mountainous, verdant Caribbean island nation of 2.7m people, where a state of emergency was declared at midday on Friday.

A woman and a child were confirmed killed in the storm, which has triggered widespread flooding, O'Neil Hamilton, a Jamaican government spokesman in Washington, told AFP.

Electricity was shut down across the island to protect the power grid, and rivers overflowed, sweeping away homes and flooding neighborhoods, with waist-high waters roiling with tree branches, boulders and debris.

There were reports of scattered looting and arson in Jamaica's crime-plagued capital, Kingston.

"There is widespread damage across Jamaica, roofs lifting everywhere and suburban residences around Kingston have been deeply affected, there is structural damage, power lines, live wires on the ground," Hamilton said.

More than 9 000 persons have been evacuated to shelters, he said.

At 15:00, Ivan's eye was located near just south of the western tip of Jamaica, or about 50km southwest of the western tip of Jamaica and 305km east-southeast of Grand Cayman, the US National Hurricane Center said.

"Ivan has been drifting westward during the past few hours but it should begin to move between west-northwest and northwest near 13 km per hour later on Saturday.

On this track Ivan should move near the Cayman Islands in about 24 hours," it added.

Already a strong Category Four system out of a maximum of five, "some fluctuations in strength are expected but Ivan could become stronger during the next 24 hours," the center warned.

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