Dean devastates parts of St Lucia and Dominica

Published: 19 August 2007 0:00 CET

Allison Ali

The first hurricane of the Atlantic storm season, Dean – which started as a category 2 hurricane – lashed the islands of St Lucia, Martinique and Dominica on Friday causing devastation as it made its way into the Caribbean Sea.

With winds near 100 mph (160 kilometers) as it passed near the islands on its way across the Lesser Antilles, Dean blew off roofs and caused island wide power outages in St Lucia and Dominica.

Kathleen Pinard Byrne, director general, Dominica Red Cross said the island started experiencing heavy winds and rain from 2 am on Friday. She said a number of people in rural districts lost roofs and there were several landslides throughout the island which claimed the lives of two persons. The country’s banana industry has also been severely affected. Power lines were knocked down and there was a disruption in the water supply.

“There was so much rain that the rivers burst their banks and caused severe flooding in several communities. These communities have been temporarily isolated and the government is trying to make access these communities.”

Pinard Byrne said the Dominica Red Cross has not been given the all clear to start its relief operations, but will start distributing tarpualins and other relief items on Saturday after they meet with the National Emergency Planning Organisation (NEPO). She noted that the Red Cross will launch an appeal to assist those who were affected by the hurricane early next week.

Terry Gaillard, director general, St Lucia Red Cross said they too were waiting for the all clear from their local government to start doing assessments. She said while most of the damage was done in the north of the island, there was no electricity throughout the country. Gaillard also noted that there were many fallen trees across many of the main roads making parts of the country in accessible. She added that there were reports of some houses losing their roofs.

The current forecast track shows Dean strengthening as it moves west, on a path to the south of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. Dean is now a hurricane of Category 3 strength, with winds of at least 111 mph.

Tropical storm warnings continue for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Grenada, Saba, St. Eustatius, Montserrat, Antigua, Nevis, St. Kitts, Barbuda, St. Maarten and Anguilla. A tropical storm watch was also issued for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, which means tropical storm conditions are possible there within 36 hours.

By Sunday, forecasters expect Dean to reach Category 4 status, with winds in excess of 131 mph, as it nears Jamaica. The current forecast path shows the storm hitting Mexico's Yucatan peninsula on Monday -- still as a Category 4 storm -- then weakening and re-entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 2 storm.

On Saturday, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies already released 150,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to respond to the first needs. More action will be taken early next week.