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Deadly Ike marches toward Gulf Coast

Dangerous Hurricane Ike prompts US preparations, leaves behind death and destruction in Caribbean islands

September 8, 2008

Hurricane Ike, expected to reach the U.S. later this week, roared ashore in Cuba Sunday with five-story high waves and howling winds. The third major hurricane to hit Caribbean islands in as many weeks, Ike left death and destruction in its wake.

More than 70 people were killed earlier in the weekend in Haiti compounding the woes in that country where many villages were still flooded as a result of Tropical Storm Hanna hitting last week. At least 160 people were killed when Hanna and Gustav hit the country.

The hurricane, then a Category 4 hurricane, decimated Grand Turk Island where as many as 80 per cent of the houses were damaged 60 per cent seriously. It is expected to take as long as two months to restore power on Grand Turk. An island resident compared it to Grenada following Hurricane Ivan, while a reporter said it was like a scene out of the “Twilight Zone.”

A resident of South Caicos reported Sunday morning that most utility poles were down and that many roofs were damaged or had been blown off as a result of the hurricane.

In Cuba, more than 900,000 people were evacuated as 50-foot high waves smashed into the shore in Baracoa.

The hurricane moved back over the warm waters of the Caribbean south of Cuba Monday afternoon according to Jose Rubiera of Cuba's meteorology institute. That action is expected to keep the hurricane as a stronger storm said forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. Ike had weakened as it crossed Cuba.

Forecasters warn the storm, now a Category 2 hurricane, is expected to restrengthen when it gets over the Gulf waters.

It is unclear where the storm will go once it moves into the Gulf, although early tracking models suggest landfall in the northern Gulf Coast in western Louisiana or Texas.

Many residents of the Florida Keys evacuated Sunday and have been asked to stay away until at least Wednesday when the hurricane will have left the region.

The Category 4 hurricane has taken a more southern route than was predicted earlier. Last week, it appeared it might land solidly in southern Florida but forecasters warned Sunday that a slight jog north in the storm's current track could still impact the state.

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