Meaning: Born On Christmas Day
SANTO DOMINGO (AFP) - A deadly storm battering the Caribbean grew into a hurricane Thursday as it headed for the open sea, leaving 107 people dead and thousands stranded in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
The Miami-based US National Hurricane Center in its Thursday evening advisory said Hurricane Noel, labeled a tropical storm earlier in the day, was moving away from the Bahamas with faster winds up to 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour.
"Noel has increased its forward speed and is now moving toward the north-northeast ... away from the Bahamas," into the open Atlantic, the center said in its report. It ranked Noel category one, the lowest on a five-point scale.
It left in its wake floodwaters which hampered the rescue of people trapped on rooftops in the Dominican Republic, wreaking havoc four days after it slammed into the island nation.
Rescue efforts intensified in that country, where the death toll rose to 73 people, with 27 more reported missing, officials said on Thursday.
In its impoverished neighbor Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, the death toll reached 34, officials said on Thursday. A further 14 people were listed as missing.
No deaths were reported in Cuba, which was also hit hard on Wednesday, but there was significant damage to agricultural fields. The hurricane center (NHC) warned of pounding rains in Noel's wake.
"Rains in Hispaniola and Cuba are expected to cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," said NHC forecaster James Franklin.
It could also dump an inch (three centimeters) of rain "across the outer banks of North Carolina" in the United States, the center said in its latest advisory.
The islands of the northwestern Bahamas were under a hurricane watch amid concerns the storm could strengthen as it surges north over the Atlantic Ocean.
The NHC said the hurricane watch and storm would likely be discontinued later Thursday night.
As the storm threatened the Bahamas earlier, residents boarded up their homes and stocked up on basic goods, as schools shut down and the airline Bahamasair grounded its flights.
Noel drenched the islands of Andros and New Providence Thursday and forecasters warned it could dump as much as 38 centimeters (15 inches) of rain.
Noel's rip through the Caribbean came at a time when dams were already full, rivers bloated and the soil saturated from weeks of rain.
Rescue officials said improved visibility made it possible for the first time on Thursday to deploy helicopters to the worst affected areas of the Dominican Republic, where surging flood waters forced people to perch on rooftops.
Torrents of water smashed several bridges, while authorities reported that 664 homes were destroyed and a further 15,600 were damaged. In all 62,428 people have fled their homes, 21,503 of whom are staying in official shelters.
The Dominican government is seeking international emergency loans for a total of 100 million dollars to deal with the disaster, officials said.
In Haiti, the fatalities included a 14-year-old girl and her mother killed when an uprooted tree crushed their house in the capital, while several homes were swept away by floods.
"I want to appeal to the whole world .... send clothes, blankets, food, everything you can," said Gustave Benoit, the deputy mayor of Cite Soleil, a slum in the Haitian capital that at the best of times looks like it has been hit by a hurricane.
With thousands of people in need of urgent assistance, Benoit did what he could to help, handing out rice and water from his beat up car.
In Cuba, almost 1,300 homes were damaged. Some interior areas remain incommunicado due to flooded roads, and coffee crops were damaged by flooding.
The NHC said the hurricane could strengthen further in the next 24 hours following its romp through the Bahamas, while at the same time losing its tropical storm characteristics as it travels north.
SHEKEL: Any significance in this? The fact that Haiti is rife in Black Magic and satanism the same as New Orleans.
This post has been edited by Tzeitel: 02 November 2007 - 05:11 AM