Hurricane Emily gathers speed

Hurricane Emily strengthened dangerously after slamming into Grenada, where it blasted out windows and flooded two main hospitals and tore roofs from homes still damaged by last year’s storms. At least one man was killed.

The storm grew to a dangerous category three as it cleared the Windward Islands, unleashing heavy surf, gusty winds and torrential rains on islands hundreds of kilometres away: Trinidad in the south, nearby Venezuela to the west and Dominican Republic in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

Venezuelan authorities temporarily ordered some oil tankers to stay in port in the key oil refining zone of Puerto la Cruz, port captain Jose Jimenez Quintero said.

Packing sustained winds near 205 kph with higher gusts, the storm was moving west-northwest at near 32 kph.

The United States National Hurricane Centre in Miami predicted the second major hurricane of the Atlantic season would get even stronger.

Emily struck hard in Grenada, especially in the northern parishes of St Patrick’s and St Andrew’s and the outlying islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique, authorities said.

The damage comes as the island nation still is recovering from Hurricane Ivan, which last year destroyed thousands of homes and damaged 90% of the historic Georgian buildings in the capital.

“Just as we were trying to rebuild ...
this is a very, very major setback,” said Barry Colleymore, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Keith Mitchell. “There’s been lots of destruction.”

The Organisation of American States expressed concern at the prospect of a “severe economic setback” to countries hit by hurricanes, especially Grenada, and called an emergency meeting for Friday.

A man in his 40s was killed when a landslide crushed his home in St Andrew’s, said Allen McGuire, Grenada’s consul general in New York City.

In the capital, St George’s, winds blew out windows and caused flooding at the main hospital, Colleymore said. On Carriacou, the storm damaged the roof of the only hospital, forcing the evacuation of patients, officials said. Sixteen houses were destroyed and more than 200 were damaged, McGuire said.

Elsewhere in Grenada, two police stations and two homes for the elderly also lost their roofs, landslides and fallen trees blocked roads, streets were flooded and crops were destroyed.

Prime Minister Keith Mitchell flew over the country to survey the destruction, Colleymore said.

In Trinidad, widespread flooding triggered landslides that cut-off the only access road to two east coast communities, marooning hundreds of residents, Mayor Eustace Nancis said. At least one house washed away and hundreds of people were without water or electricity, he said.

“When I first heard of the problem I thought it was just a simple landslide, but there was a much bigger problem,” Nancis said.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning toured Trinidad and the smaller island of Tobago by helicopter on Thursday to assess damage.

Jamaica and Cayman Islands posted hurricane watches, while the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela posted tropical storm warnings for parts of their countries, as did the Dutch islands of Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba.

In Grenada, Mitchell had sought to reassure citizens that the government would not be caught off-guard—as it was when Ivan killed 39 people and left a wasteland of ruined buildings in September.

“We took this very, very seriously,” said Colin Dowe, an assistant dean at St George’s University, where dozens of students and faculty members waited out the storm. “Ivan was much stronger so the general feeling is that we can get through this.”

At 11pm EDT (3am GMT), Emily was centered about 600km south-southeast of the Dominican Republic capital, Santo Domingo, moving west-northwest near 32 kph.

Hurricane-force winds extended up to 35km and tropical storm-force winds another 205km.

Emily trails Hurricane Dennis, which destroyed crops and killed at least 25 people in Haiti and 16 in Cuba last week, according to authorities in the two countries. - Sapa-AP

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