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'Noel' kills 20 in Dominican Republic

world Updated: Oct 30, 2007 11:53 IST
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High winds and heavy rain brought by tropical storm Noel in the Dominican Republic caused flooding and mudslides, killing at least 20 people and leaving 20 others missing, officials said.

With sustained winds of 85 kms per hour, Noel lashed the Caribbean island of Hispaniola - where the Dominican Republic and Haiti are located - and also threatened Cuba, Jamaica and Bahamas on Monday.

"These rains, particularly in Hispaniola, are expected to cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said on Monday.

Numerous rivers overflowed their banks, flooding valleys and causing crop damage. At least 10 people are missing in a flash flood that swept through the town of Piedra Blanca. Several villages were cut-off by the rising waters. There are no reports available of casualties in Haiti.

People in Central America and the Caribbean often fear the rain associated with tropical storms more than the storms' destructive force. Mudslides and floods regularly claim lives in vulnerable areas.

Noel blew over the west of Hispaniola and is now heading north-west at 20 kms an hour and is expected to move between the northern coast of Cuba and the central Bahamas where it is expected to turn north-east and miss the US.

The NHC issued a tropical storm warning for the entire coast of Haiti, parts of south-eastern Cuba - including Guantanamo Bay, where the US is holding hundreds of terrorist suspects - central and south-eastern Bahamas and the British overseas territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands. There was a tropical storm warning for Jamaica as well.

Nicaraguan authorities said on Monday that they are watching the evolution of Noel, although it currently presents no threat to the Central American nation.

On Sep 4, Hurricane Felix devastated Nicaragua's north-east, killing more than 100 people, affecting almost 200,000 others and causing great material damage.

The hurricane season in the Caribbean officially ends on November 30.