Kingston: Hurricane Sandy on Thursday made landfall in south-east Cuba as a strong Category 2 storm. On Wednesday, the hurricane lashed shantytowns and downed power lines with heavy wind and rain as it roared across Jamaica.
According to a news agency, at least two people were killed as Hurricane Sandy pounded the area. An elderly man was killed in Jamaica when he was crushed by a boulder that rolled onto his clapboard house, police reported. Earlier on Wednesday, a woman in Haiti was swept away by a rushing river she was trying to cross.
The storm hit Jamaica as a category 1 hurricane then strengthened as it spun over open sea toward Cuba. US forecasters said it had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph) late Wednesday.
In some southern towns of Jamaica, a few crocodiles were caught in rushing floodwaters that carried them out of their homes in mangrove thickets, showing up in districts where electricity was knocked out, local residents reported. One big croc took up temporary residence in a family`s front yard in the city of Portmore.
The hurricane`s eye crossed over Jamaica by Wednesday evening and emerged from its northern coast near the town of Port Antonio, meteorologists said, but rain and winds continued to pound the Caribbean island into the night.
It was the first direct hit by the eye of a hurricane on Jamaica since Hurricane Gilbert 24 years ago, and fearful authorities closed the island`s international airports and police ordered 48-hour curfews in major towns to keep people off the streets and deter looting. Cruise ships changed their itineraries to avoid the storm, which made landfall five miles (8 kilometres) east of the capital, Kingston.
Flash floods and mudslides were a threat for this debt-shackled tropical island of roughly 2.7 million inhabitants, which has a crumbling infrastructure and a number of sprawling shantytowns built on steep embankments and along gullies that sluice runoff water to the sea.
Airports in Kingston and Montego Bay were shut down for the day.
Far out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Tony posed no threat to land. The storm had maximum sustained winds of about 50 mph (85 kph) and was moving east-northeast at 23 mph (37 kph). Its centre was 935 miles (1,505 kilometres) west-southwest of the Azores.
(With Agency inputs)