YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The World

Ivan Batters Cayman Islands

The hurricane floods homes, rips off roofs and takes aim at Cuba. Florida or possibly New Orleans may fall in the storm's path.

September 13, 2004|From Times Wires Services

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Hurricane Ivan battered the Cayman Islands with ferocious 150-mph winds Sunday, flooding homes, ripping off roofs and toppling trees three stories tall as it thundered by and took aim at Cuba and the United States.

Panicked residents climbed onto kitchen counters and tables to escape a waist-high surge of water that swept at least half a mile inland. Some said the winds sounded like a locomotive. Ham radio operators reported that people were standing on rooftops to escape the floods, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

"They pretty much got the worst of it," said Michael Formosa, a meteorologist at the center.

Donnie Ebanks, deputy chairman of the Caymans' National Hurricane Committee, estimated that as many as half of the 15,000 homes on the main island of Grand Cayman were damaged. Ivan made a nearly direct hit on Grand Cayman, but the eye of the storm did not make landfall, passing over water just south of the island, said Rafael Mojica, a Hurricane Center meteorologist.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in this British territory, but the death toll rose to 15 in Jamaica, where Ivan caused severe flooding and mudslides as it passed Friday night and Saturday.

Although damage was extensive in Jamaica, the island of 2.7 million appeared to have been spared the havoc wrought Tuesday on Grenada, where the government said 39 people died and 90% of the island's buildings were damaged or destroyed.

In all, Ivan has killed at least 65 people.

The hurricane was headed for tobacco-growing regions of western Cuba today and then toward the United States, where it could inflict a third strike in a month on Florida or curve west toward New Orleans.

Cuba evacuated 1.3 million people -- more than 10% of its population -- from coastal areas and flimsy buildings and prepared for torrential rains of 12 inches. But it appeared Ivan would miss the capital, Havana.

Among those ordered to evacuate were 7,000 residents of La Coloma, 115 miles west of Havana.

"We are afraid of the penetration of the sea. The water was up to here during the last hurricane," said Estalin Amentero, 34, pointing to a spot 4 feet high in his home.

In Florida, authorities evacuated tourists and 80,000 residents from the Keys, and along the southwest coast people who had not already boarded up their homes stocked up on plywood and power generators.

Mexico issued a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning for the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula. Emergency services began evacuating up to 12,000 people from Isla Mujeres, a resort eight miles from Cancun.

Los Angeles Times Articles