Nassau: Hurricane Sandy raged through the Bahamas early Friday after leaving 21 people dead across the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm and reach the US East Coast as a super-storm next week.
Sandy knocked out power, flooded roads and cut off islands in the storm-hardened Bahamas as it swirled past Cat Island and Eleuthera, but authorities reported no deaths in the scattered archipelago.
"Generally people are realising it is serious," said Caroline Turnquest, the head of the Red Cross in the Bahamas, who said 20 shelters were opened on the main island of New Providence.
Sandy, which weakened to a category 1 hurricane on Thursday night, caused havoc in Cuba early in the day, killing 11 people in eastern Santiago and Guantanamo provinces as its howling winds and rain toppled houses and ripped off roofs. Authorities said it was Cuba`s deadliest storm since July 2005, when category 5 Hurricane Dennis killed 16 people and caused USD 2.4 billion in damage.
Sandy also killed one person while crossing Jamaica on Wednesday and 10 in Haiti, where heavy rains from the storm`s outer bands caused flooding in the impoverished and deforested country.
Late yesterday, the hurricane`s centre was about 300 kilometres east-southeast of Freeport, Bahamas. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 150 kph and was moving north-northwest at 20 kph.
Forecasters warned that Sandy will likely mix with a winter storm to create a monster storm in the eastern US next week whose effects will be felt along the entire Atlantic Coast from Florida to Maine and inland to Ohio.
Sandy, which crossed Cuba and reached the Bahamas as a category 2 hurricane, was expected to maintain its category 1 storm status for the next several days.
In the Bahamas, power was out on Acklins Island and most roads there were flooded, government administrator Berkeley Williams said.
On Ragged Island in the southern Bahamas, the lone school was flooded.
"We have holes in roofs, lost shingles and power lines are down," said Charlene Bain, local Red Cross president. "But nobody lost a life, that`s the important thing."
Steven Russell, an emergency management official in Nassau, said that docks on the western side of Great Inagua island had been destroyed and that the roof of a government building was partially ripped off.