Friday, September 10, 2004
KINGSTON, Jamaica - Waves two-stories high crashed on Jamaica's eastern shore Friday, flooding homes and washing away roads as Hurricane Ivan's ferocious winds and pounding rains began to lash the island and threatened a direct hit on its densely populated capital. The death toll elsewhere in the Caribbean rose to 37.
Ivan has also killed five people in Venezuela, one in Tobago, one in Barbados, and four youngsters in the Dominican Republic.
At least 26 people had died in Grenada, including the drowned yachters, people trapped in collapsed homes and a few elderly people who apparently died of shock.
Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson declared a public emergency and pleaded with the half million people considered in danger about one in five islanders to get to shelters. Many residents, however, refused to leave, fearing their homes would be robbed if abandoned.
Cuba declared a hurricane watch across the entire island Friday after its leader, Fidel Castro, went on national television warning residents to brace themselves. "Whatever the hurricane does, we will all work together" to rebuild, he said.
In Jamaica, awed onlookers stood transfixed on the seaside Palisadoes Highway near Kingston's airport as 23-foot waves crashed to shore, thrusting rocks and dead tree branches more than 100 feet into the road.
"This is going to be disastrous, we could have hundreds dead. Hurricane Gilbert was a puppy compared to this," he said. Gilbert killed dozens of Jamaicans and devastated the island when it struck as a Category 3 storm in 1988.
Ivan, a Category 4 hurricane out of a top scale of 5 packed winds of 145 mph and could strengthen before fully striking the 145-mile-long island Friday night, meteorologists said. They warned of "life-threatening" flash floods and mudslides.