Tropical Storm Nicole caused flooding and mudslides across Jamaica, leaving two confirmed dead and at least 12 more missing, even as the drenching system moved north and dissipated over the Florida straits.
The outer bands of the storm hammered Jamaica, toppling bridges and knocking out power to thousands. Many streets were filled with gushing brown torrents of water, prompting Prime Minister Bruce Golding to urge people to stay indoors yesterday.
Floodwaters battered squatter communities perched uneasily on the slopes of gullies that crisscross the sprawling capital of Kingston. One slide killed a 14-year-old boy, known to his neighbours as Buju, who was found in an eddy of muddy water. The rest of his family - including four sisters, the youngest just 3-years-old - had not been found last evening.
"He was a fun boy. He loved to sing, he loved to play football. It's not right, the whole family lost," said Munchie Fuller, a 23-year-old neighbour who watched terrified as a chunk of her own concrete house in Sandy Gully was swept into the raging waters before dawn.
Another resident, Lyndon Bennett, said the people in the shantytown who live along the gully are warned repeatedly to move for their own safety but most refuse to relocate.
"There's not a proper foundation there, the gully is just stone and dirt. People are told not to live there, but when you've got no other options you've just got to make ends meet. It's a real tragedy," Bennett said.
The storm, which had sustained winds of 65 kmph earlier in the day, broke apart over the Atlantic, though the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami warned that there were still large areas of heavy rain.
Jamaican Information Minister Daryl Vaz said two people were confirmed dead but warned that the toll could be higher from the flash floods and mudslides. He said 12 people were missing.
Emergency shelters were opened for thousands of Jamaicans who live in ramshackle homes along gullies. Major hospitals were treating only emergency cases. Officials said about 30 per cent of the power utility's customers were without power. Some bridges collapsed in the rushing water.