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Hurricane Felix death toll rises to 52

Hurricane Felix has left 52 people dead in Nicaragua, although President Daniel Ortega warned that the figure is likely to rise.

world Updated: Sep 08, 2007 10:00 IST

Hurricane Felix has left 52 people dead in Nicaragua, although President Daniel Ortega warned that the figure is likely to rise.

"Fifty-two people have been confirmed dead, (but) everything indicates that there are more because many have been reported missing," Ortega said in Puerto Cabezas on Friday.

Late on Thursday, Ortega had spoken of 39 people dead, and earlier reports from different authorities put the death toll at 46. Unofficial sources spoke of up to 100 casualties.

Nicaragua's Air Force and Navy are since Thursday intensely looking for 105 people missing in the Miskito Cays area, around a group of small islands off the country's northeastern shore, near the border with Honduras.

Ortega said the authorities rescued 53 members of Miskito indigenous communities in the coast of Honduras, where they were pushed by the waves.

Felix struck Nicaragua's northeast on Tuesday as a category five hurricane, with sustained winds of up to 260 km an hour. It devastated entire Miskito communities and the city of Puerto Cabezas, with 60,000 residents, 580 km north of capital Managua.

The latest Civil Defence count reported damages to 8,648 homes, 7,995 of which were totally destroyed; 13 public buildings, including schools, health centres and a military post; and 30 private buildings, most of them schools.

Close to 60,000 people are homeless, and 18,477 of them have found refuge in 101 shelters.

"I want to ask our brothers of the Miskito, Mayagna and all indigenous peoples to have a lot of confidence because we have here a lot of commitment and this government belongs to the poor," Ortega said.

UN officials in Managua committed $43 million in aid on Friday.

The US Embassy in Nicaragua said in a statement that it had given $403,000 in assistance, not including the cost of sending to Venezuela airplanes and helicopters that are helping with rescue efforts.

Venezuela, in turn, sent a Hercules C-130 plane to Puerto Cabezas with 8 tonnes in aid, including food, medicine, tents and tools.

Ortega said Thursday that the country had so far received half a million dollars in international aid.

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