Noel reaches hurricane strength
Deadly storm gains strength as it leaves a trail of destruction in the Caribbean.
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2007 05:45 GMT

Many are still missing in the Dominican Republic as authorities battle widespread flooding [EPA]

Leaving a trail of death and destruction in the Carribean, tropical storm Noel has been upgraded to hurricane strength as it surges away from the Bahamas toward Bermuda.

The US National Hurricane Centre said in an advisory late on Thursday that Hurricane Noel was moving into the open Atlantic, picking up strength with sustained wind speeds measuring up to 120 kilometres per hour.


That makes Noel a category one hurricane, the lowest on the Saffir/Simpson scale.

It is expected to move in a north-northeasterly direction that would eventually bring a possibly fierce but nontropical storm to Nova Scotia, Canada.


Noel has so far caused the deaths of more than 100 people, with many still reported missing in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.


On the island of Cuba, thousands of residents were evacuated from low-lying areas as reservoirs overflowed but no casualties have been reported.




Many residents are reported to be
trapped on rooftops [AFP]
As the storm moves northwards emergency volunteers in the Bahamas began distributing food and bedding in to thousands forced to evacuate into temporary shelters.


In central Bahamas, Long Island residents suffered "devastating" losses as Noel dumped a record 38 centimetres of rain over two days, the National Emergency Management Agency said.


The storm caused flood levels on the island not seen in 60 years, forcing mass evacuation of homes and businesses.


Elsewhere in the region the Dominican Republic declared a national emergency after the death toll from Noel rose to more than 90, many swept away in muddy floodwaters after two rivers burst their banks.


Local politicians and residents said the El Duey and Haina rivers swelled after days of rain, leaving at least 100 people missing, and made dozens of families homeless in Villa Altagracia, about 42km outside Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital.


Rising toll


"There were a lot of dead," said Luis Melo, a local resident.


Marino Mendoza, another resident, said he had seen up to 30 bodies strewn along the banks of the river.


Luis Luna Paulino, head of the Dominican Republic's emergency operations, said more than 25,000 people had been made homeless by Noel.


He said several bridges collapsed, mudslides blocked roads and floods cut off dozens of communities.


Leonel Fernandez, the president of the Dominican Republic, appealed to boat owners to help rescue people trapped in cut-off villages.


In Haiti, 34 people were confirmed dead as Jacques-Edouard Alexis, the prime minister, announced $1.5m in emergency aid for storm victims.


Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of the civil protection service, said the fatalities included a 14 year-old girl and her mother, killed when an uprooted tree crushed their house in the capital Port-au-Prince.


The country is the most vulnerable of the Caribbean islands to flash floods and mudslides because most of its trees have been chopped down to make charcoal.

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