Sandy claims at least 40 lives in Caribbean

Satellite imagery of Hurricane Sandy moving through the Northern Bahamas, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. GOES/NOAA

Last Updated 3:14 p.m. ET

NASSAU, BAHAMAS Hurricane Sandy raged through the Bahamas early Friday after leaving 40 people dead across the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm to hit the U.S. East Coast with a super-storm next week.

Sandy knocked out power, flooded roads and cut off islands in the storm-hardened Bahamas as it charged through Cat Island and Eleuthera, with authorities reporting one death in the scattered archipelago.

"Generally people are realizing it is serious," said Caroline Turnquest, head of the Red Cross in the Bahamas, who said 20 shelters were opened on the main island of New Providence.

Sandy, which weakened to a Category 1 hurricane Thursday night, caused havoc in Cuba Thursday, killing 11 people in eastern Santiago and Guantanamo provinces as its howling winds and rain toppled houses and ripped off roofs. Authorities said it was Cuba's deadliest storm since July 2005, when Category 5 Hurricane Dennis killed 16 people and caused $2.4 billion in damage.

The death toll was still rising in impoverished Haiti, reaching 26 on Friday as word of disasters reached officials and rains continued to fall.

Joseph Edgard Celestin, a spokesman for Haiti's civil protection office, said some people died trying to cross storm-swollen rivers. While the storm's center missed the country as it passed on Wednesday, Haiti's ramshackle housing and denuded hillsides make it especially vulnerable to flood damage.

Officials at a morgue in the western town of Grand Goave said a mudslide crashed through a wooden home on Thursday, killing 40-year-old Jacqueline Tatille and her four children, ranging in ages from 5 to 17.

"If the rain continues, for sure we'll have more people die," said morgue deputy Joseph Franck Laporte. "The earth cannot hold the rain."

Sandy also killed one person while battering Jamaica on Wednesday and police in the Bahamas said a 66-year-old man died after falling from his roof in upscale Lyford Cay late Thursday while trying to repair a window shutter.

In the Bahamas, power was out on Acklins Island and most roads there were flooded, government administrator Berkeley Williams said.

On Ragged Island in the southern Bahamas, the lone school was flooded.

"We have holes in roofs, lost shingles and power lines are down," said Charlene Bain, local Red Cross president. "But nobody lost a life, that's the important thing."

Russell, the emergency management official in Nassau, said docks on the western side of Great Inagua island had been destroyed and the roof of a government building was partially ripped off.

The huge Atlantis resort went into lockdown after dozens of tourists left Paradise Island before the airport closed, said George Markantonis, president of Kerzner International, which manages the resort. He said the resort was now less than half full, but all its restaurants, casinos and other facilities were still operating.

Sooner Halvorson, a 36-year-old hotel owner from Colorado who recently moved to the Bahamas, said she and her husband, Matt, expected to ride out the storm with their two young children, three cats, two dogs and a goat at their Cat Island resort.

"We brought all of our animals inside," she said, though she added that a horse stayed outside. "She's a 40-year-old horse from the island. She's been through tons of hurricanes."

A U.N. Peacekeeper stands watch near a bridge washed away by heavy rains from Hurricane Sandy Thursday, October 25, 2012 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images

On Great Exuma island, guest house operator Veronica Marshall supplied her only customer with a flashlight and some food before Sandy bore down. The storm-hardened Bahamian said she was confident that she and her business would make it through intact.

"I'm 73 years old and I've weathered many storms," she said.

Cuban authorities said the island's 11 dead included a 4-month-old boy who was crushed when his home collapsed and an 84-year-old man in Santiago province. Near the city of Guantanamo, the Communist Party daily Granma reported, two men were killed by falling trees.

Official news media reported Friday that the storm caused 5,000 houses to at least partially collapse while ripping the roofs off 30,000 others. Banana, coffee, bean and sugar crops were damaged.

Comments