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3 dead as Elsa crosses the Caribbean at full speed and targets Cuba

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Tropical Storm Elsa hit the southern coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday, cutting down trees and blowing rooftops as it passed through the Caribbean, killing at least three people.

The storm was centered about 140 miles (225 kilometers) east of Kingston, Jamaica, and was heading west-northwest at 23 mph (37 km / h). According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, the tropical storm, which was a Category 1 hurricane earlier on Saturday, has weakened on its approach to Hispaniola and Cuba.

The storm was to hit Cuba next on a path that would lead it to Florida, with some models showing it would turn in the Gulf or along the Atlantic coast. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the Florida Keys from Craig Key west to Dry Tortugas.

Antony Exilien secures the roof of his house in response to Tropical Storm Elsa, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Saturday. Elsa grazed Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday and threatened to trigger floods and landslides before targeting Cuba and Florida. [ JOSEPH ODELYN | AP ]

Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 15 Florida counties, including Miami-Dade County, where the condominium collapsed last week.

One death has been reported in Saint Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Meanwhile, a 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman died in separate events in the Dominican Republic on Saturday after walls collapsed on them, according to a statement from the Emergency Operations Center.

The deaths come a day after Elsa caused widespread damage to several eastern Caribbean islands as a Category 1 hurricane, the first of the Atlantic season. Among the hardest hit is Barbados, where more than 1,100 people have reported damaged homes, including 62 homes that completely collapsed as the government pledged to find and fund temporary housing to avoid reuniting people in settlements. shelter in the midst of the pandemic.

Dozens of trees and power lines littered Barbados, where several schools and government buildings were damaged and hundreds of customers were still without power on Saturday, officials said.

“It’s a hurricane that hit us for the first time in 66 years,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley said on Saturday. “There is no doubt that it is urgent.”

Barbados suspended classes until Wednesday and is expected to reopen its international airport on Sunday.

Downed trees were also reported in Haiti, where authorities used social media to alert people to the storm and urged them to evacuate if they lived near water or on the mountainsides.

“The whole country is at risk,” the Civil Protection Agency said in a statement. “Make an effort to escape before it is too late.”

A utility pole shot down by Hurricane Elsa leans on the edge of a residential balcony in Cedars, St. Vincent, Friday.  Elsa strengthened herself in the first hurricane of the Atlantic season on Friday by tearing roofs and smashing trees in the eastern Caribbean, where authorities have closed schools, businesses and airports.  It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm as it approaches Cuba.
A utility pole shot down by Hurricane Elsa leans on the edge of a residential balcony in Cedars, St. Vincent, Friday. Elsa got stronger in the first hurricane of the Atlantic season on Friday as it blew up rooftops and smashed trees in the eastern Caribbean, where authorities have closed schools, businesses and airports. It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm as it approaches Cuba. [ ORVIL SAMUEL | AP ]

Haiti is particularly vulnerable to floods and landslides due to widespread erosion and deforestation. In addition, a recent increase in gang violence has forced thousands of people to flee their homes, causing the civil protection agency to run out of basic items including food and water, said Director Jerry Chandler at The Associated Press.

“We have been supporting families fleeing gang violence for three weeks,” he said. “We are working on renewing our stocks, but the biggest problem is logistics. “

He said officials were still trying to figure out how to get supplies to the southern region of Haiti, which prepared for Elsa’s impact.

Meanwhile, people bought water and food before the storm approached.

“I protect myself as best I can. Civil protection is not going to do that for me, ”said Darlene Jean-Pierre, 35, buying six jugs of water as well as vegetables and fruit. “I have other worries about the streets… I have to worry about gang fights. On top of that, we have a hurricane.

A hurricane warning remains in effect from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on the southern border with the Dominican Republic. A hurricane watch was issued for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba. Some of those provinces have reported high numbers of COVID-19 infections, raising fears the storm will force large groups of people to seek shelter together.

“Anticipation is the key word,” Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said, adding that vaccination efforts would continue. “Let’s take care of lives and property.

In neighboring Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, authorities opened more than 2,400 shelters as forecasters warned of heavy rains.

Some worried about the condition of their homes, many living under corrugated roofs.

“I have a lot of leaks in my zinc,” said María Ramos. “What are we going to do? God only knows.”

Meanwhile, officials reported on Saturday that at least 43 homes and three police stations were damaged in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which also suffered massive volcanic eruptions that began in April.

“We expect that number to increase as reports continue to come in,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said. “We have some damage, but it could have been a lot worse. “

In Saint Lucia, the wind damaged a high school, hitting desks, knocking over chairs and flying papers after blowing up the roof and siding.

Elsa was the first hurricane of the Atlantic season and the first fifth-named storm on record. Elsa also broke the record for the fastest hurricane in the tropic, reaching 31 mph on Saturday morning, according to Brian McNoldy, hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

10-20 centimeters of rain are forecast to fall with maximum totals of 38 centimeters (15 inches) in parts of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica.

By Associated Press Writers Dánica Coto and Evens Sanon. Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico and Sanon from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Ramón Carmona in the Dominican Republic contributed to this report.

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2021 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

THIS IS THE SEASON OF STORMS: Prepare and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

THE TRUTH IS THERE: Seven myths about hurricanes that must go away

SAVE YOUR DATA: Protect your data, documents and photos

BUILD YOUR HURRICANE KIT: Gear up – and hide – before the storm hits

PROTECT YOUR ANIMALS: Here’s how to keep your pets as safe as you are

MUST KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation area and shelter

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