Friday, August 29, 2008

Death toll climbs as Gustav barrels through Caribbean

KINGSTON (AFP) — Tropical Storm Gustav battered Jamaica as the death toll climbed to 59 in nearby Hispaniola, the island shared by Dominican Republic and Haiti that Gustav slammed at hurricane strength two days ago.

Anxiety grew along the US Gulf Coast, with states devastated by Hurricane Katrina three years ago declaring emergencies and oil companies evacuating personnel, ahead of a hurricane-force landfall in the region predicted for Monday.

"Gustav could become a hurricane by tomorrow," forecasters at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

Gustav was forecast to pummel the Cayman Islands and the western tip of Cuba before turning north and entering the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend, the NHC said.

At 2400 GMT Gustav was crossing Jamaica from east to west, packing winds of 110 kilometers (70 miles) per hour that ripped off roofs and threatened to wreak havoc on the country's banana industry, officials said.

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