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Hurricane Dean batters Jamaica

world Updated: Aug 20, 2007 19:27 IST
Horace Helps
Horace Helps
Reuters
Highlight Story

Hurricane Dean buffeted Jamaica's southern coast, flooding the capital and littering it with broken trees and roofs after killing nine people as it tore through the Caribbean on Monday toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Dean was an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane, the second-highest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, and the US National Hurricane Center said it could strengthen to a potentially catastrophic Category 5 over the next 24 hours.

Packing winds of near 150 miles per hour (240 kph), the hurricane was moving south of the Cayman Islands at 5 a.m. with it's eye 115 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman, moving westward, or west-northwestward.

The eye of the storm passed just south of Jamaica but the intense wall of winds around the calm center pummeled the island. Sheets of rain pelted the capital of Kingston and roads were blocked by toppled trees, utility poles and smashed roofs.

The wind howled over the island nation of 3 million people and pounding waves battered the southern coast. Mudslides were reported in several parts of the mountainous country.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller declared a month-long state of emergency and called a cabinet meeting to discuss the potential impact on August 27 general elections.

At least one man was missing after falling trees tore into his house and officials urged people to evacuate their homes and seek safety.

"They're still getting pretty beaten up," said hurricane center forecaster Dave Roberts. "I know they were massively flooded from the reports that we had."

Police said they shot and wounded two men caught trying to break into a business in the capital during the storm.