By MARC LACEY
Published: September 8, 2008
MIAMI — Hurricane Ike barreled west across central Cuba
on Monday after raising the death toll and destruction across the already beleaguered islands of the waterlogged Caribbean.
, where the fourth-largest city, Gonaïves, remained underwater from Hurricane Gustav
, rain fell Sunday and at least 10 more people died of drowning,
according to reports from news services. By early Monday the number of
people reported killed in Haiti just from the effects of Hurricane Ike
reached at least 61, according to news services. The total of those
killed in Haiti in the recent storms was in the hundreds.
In Cuba, where relief efforts from Hurricane Gustav were under way in the
west, the government evacuated vulnerable communities as the new
hurricane smashed into the island with heavy winds and rain that could
total 10 inches.
In the Florida Keys, the authorities also ordered residents and tourists to leave as the outer reaches of the storm could be felt and on Monday a tropical storm warning was issued.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported Monday morning that
Hurricane Ike, which had already weakened from a Category 4 storm to
Category 3 Sunday after it hit Cuba, had weakened further to Category
2. But it was still considered a major hurricane with tremendous
destructive force and it could still regain intensity.
Winds were gusting at around 105 miles per hour as the storm passed over
central Cuba heading west toward the Gulf of Mexico, where it was
expected to emerge on Tuesday.
Cuba’s state-run television showed scenes from the city of Baracoa on the eastern tip of Cuba, where waves slammed into the sea wall and surged as high as nearby five-story
apartment buildings before flooding the streets, Reuters reported.
Early Sunday, the hurricane had struck the southernmost islands of the
Bahamas, where Janice McKinney, who ran a disaster shelter, told The
Associated Press: “Oh my God, I can’t describe it.”
With winds up to 135 miles per hour, the storm also struck the Turks and Caicos
Islands, where rain came in horizontally, according to witnesses, and
more than 80 percent of the homes in some areas were reported damaged.
“They got hit really, really bad,” The A.P. quoted Michael Misick, the chief
minister of the islands, as saying. “A lot of people have lost their
houses, and we will have to see what we can do to accommodate them.”
The effect of any rain at all on Haiti worried relief workers, who were
struggling to reach hungry people cut off by floodwaters from a string
of earlier storms. Officials opened an overflowing dam, further
inundating residential and agricultural areas.
Meanwhile, a bridge collapsed, adding to the isolation of the suffering people of Gonaïves.
“What I saw in this city today is close to hell on earth,” Hédi Annabi, the United Nations
special representative to Haiti, said Saturday in Gonaïves, where
children were chasing trucks carrying food and shouting, “Hungry!
The airport in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, was closed for part of Sunday, and flights from Miami were canceled.
Some travelers who were lined up at the Miami airport toted huge duffel bags
that they said contained supplies for ailing relatives.
On Sunday night, the National Hurricane Center said Ike was expected to continue
on a path that would turn toward the west-northwest on Monday, heading
toward the Gulf Coast possibly by Wednesday.
The hurricane center said the storm was generating large swells at sea that could
generate life-threatening rip currents along portions of coast in the
southeastern United States, still recovering from Gustav, which made
landfall on Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday, and Tropical Storm
Hanna, which hit the Carolinas on Saturday and by late Sunday was
dumping rain on Canada.Graham Bowley contributed reporting from New York.