Hurricane batters Bahamas

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | November 6, 2001

Hurricane Michelle lashed the Bahamas with 85 mph winds and more than a foot of rain Monday after battering Cuba over the weekend.

Florida escaped the brunt of Hurricane Michelle, though south Florida saw flooding in low-lying areas as well as the worst beach erosion of the year.

On Michelle's heels, the eighth hurricane of the season, Hurricane Noel, churned up in the Atlantic but weakened to a tropical storm Tuesday when it neared eastern Newfoundland.

Over the weekend, Cuba bore the full force of Hurricane Michelle, which was once a dangerous Category 4 storm.

Some 750,000 people in Cuba fled their homes in the face of the storm's 135-mph winds, torrential rain, and surging waves. Communications were largely still down Tuesday, and more than half the country was without power.

As a tropical storm, Michelle killed a dozen people in Central American and Jamaica. The storm dropped torrential rain that caused violent flooding and mudslides, particularly in Honduras and Nicaragua. The storm hit nearly three years to the date after Hurricane Mitch ravaged the region.

More than 115,000 people in Central America are displaced from their homes because of Michelle, reported the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), with numbers expected to rise as communications open to isolated areas.

UMCOR partners in Honduras and Nicaragua are assisting with rescue operations and gathering relief items to transport to the affected areas as soon as possible.

The same areas now experiencing flooding were already reeling under a prolonged drought. Many villages have no food, drinking water, or electricity.

In Honduras, the Christian Commission for Development (CCD), a member of Action by Churches Together (ACT), was working with the Honduran government to rescue those endangered by the still-rising water.

In Nicaragua, ACT member Christian Medical Action reported that flooding has left many villages with no way to communicate, so it is difficult to know the extent of damages. Another ACT member, the Nicaraguan Council of Evangelical Churches, reported it was in contact with its staff along the Coco River.

Faith-based organizations nationwide, many of them coordinated through the efforts of Church World Service, are still sending volunteers to Central America to repair damages caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. That storm caused caused $6.5 billion in damage and killed more than 5,000 people.

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