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Ivan Swamps Cuban Coast, Heads to U.S.

September 14, 2004|From Reuters

PINAR DEL RIO, Cuba — Deadly Hurricane Ivan ripped off roofs, downed trees and power lines and flooded coastal areas Monday as it grazed the western tip of Cuba and headed toward the United States.

Energy companies pulled thousands of workers from offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, home to about a quarter of U.S. output, and world oil prices rose with the reduced production.

The storm, which strengthened to a rare 160-mph Category 5 on Monday, was expected to hit as far east as Florida's Panhandle or as far west as Louisiana.

Ivan's death toll rose to 68 as Haiti reported three storm- related deaths and the Pan American Health Organization said 37 people had died in Grenada, up from 19. Nineteen were killed in Jamaica, four in Venezuela, four in the Dominican Republic and one in Tobago.

The hurricane's powerful core passed over the Guanahacabibes peninsula on the western tip of Cuba, home to a sparsely populated national park.

Officials reported the sea had surged 35 yards inland at the fishing village of Cortes.

Winds ripped off corrugated iron roofing in the nearby fishing port of La Coloma, where 15-foot waves flooded the village, which had been abandoned by its inhabitants. Cuba, with a population of 11 million, has evacuated 1.3 million people.

The storm spared the country's sugar, nickel, citrus and tourism industries and avoided the capital, Havana.

In Mexico's Caribbean beach resort of Cancun, famed for its turquoise waters and night life, thousands of residents and tourists were evacuated as heavy rain and choppy seas pounded the coast.

Fishermen pulled their rowboats onto the white sand beaches, and emergency services personnel tried to convince residents near shore to leave their homes.

On Grand Cayman, the largest of the three Cayman Islands, buildings were flooded, an airport runway was submerged and roofs were torn off when Ivan roared through Sunday. The Cayman government said no casualties had been reported.

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