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Storm kills 81 in the Caribbean

world Updated: Nov 01, 2007 12:54 IST

Tropical storm Noel buffeted south Florida with high surf and winds as it swirled slowly toward the Bahamas, after triggering mudslides and floods in the Caribbean that killed at least 81 people.

Forecasters warned of worsening storm conditions in the Bahamas on Thursday, and the government issued a hurricane watch for the northwestern parts of the archipelago. On Andros Island, the chain's largest, boat owners tied their vessels down ahead of the storm.

Noel was forecast to skirt southeastern Florida. The US National Hurricane Centre issued a tropical storm watch for a 225-kilometre stretch of the state's coast from just north of the Keys to Jupiter. Wind and waves were washing out beaches from Miami to the Georgia border.

Meanwhile, the deadly storm was still dumping rains on the Dominican Republic and Haiti last night, more than two days after it struck the island of Hispaniola, where rescuers were struggling to reach communities cut off by flooding.

As they did, they found a rising toll of death and damage - at least 56 dead in the Dominican Republic, 24 in neighbouring Haiti and one in Jamaica.

Two days after a swollen river swept away the hamlet of Piedra Blanca in central Dominican Republic; Charo Vidal described climbing into a tree and watching her neighbour struggle to do the same, clutching infant twins while the waters swept an older daughter away.

"She couldn't take care of all three," Vidal said. "That is something very profound, to have a child snatched from your hands and you cannot do anything for them.