Noel becomes hurricane after leaving 109 dead
Nov 2, 2007, 5:06 GMT
Havana/Miami - The 14th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season reached hurricane strength after it killed more than 100 people on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, said late Thursday that Hurricane Noel was packing maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometres per hour, making it a category 1 hurricane, the weakest on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
It was located 285 kilometres north-north-east of Nassau, Bahamas, and moving in a north-north-easterly direction. It was expected to merge with prevailing storm systems in the Atlantic Friday and move up the Atlantic coast of the United States to Canada.
Earlier, as a tropical storm, Noel brought landslides and flooding across Hispaniola, killing 73 people and leaving 43 missing in the Dominican Republic alone, its National Emergency Commission said.
Neighbouring Haiti reported 34 dead and 14 missing as of Thursday night.
A woman also died in Jamaica in a house collapse, the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper reported, citing police, and a man drowned in the Bahamas, The Bahamas Journal said.
Those deaths brought Noel's death toll to 109, making it the deadliest storm of the hurricane season this year, surpassing Hurricane Felix, a category 5 storm that killed 101 people in September as it swept across the Caribbean and hit Nicaragua and Honduras.
Noel, however, did not take a direct hit on the Bahamas as initially feared but drenched the archipelago nation. It also veered away from Florida, but its effects continued to be felt in the Dominican Republic, where President Leonel Fernandez ordered a state of emergency for the next 30 days as well as the evacuations of 36 cities and villages.
The National Emergency Commission said Noel forced 64,096 people from their homes there.
Rain continued uninterrupted Thursday in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. No deaths were reported in Cuba, but flooding and more than 13,000 evacuations were. Most dams in eastern Cuba were also at or over their maximum capacities.
Storm warnings were lifted in the meantime in Cuba and the Bahamas, but the National Hurricane Center warned that Noel would develop Friday into a powerful extratropical cyclone that was expected to affect the coasts from North Carolina up to New England and Canada.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur