Tomas becomes hurricane, batters east Caribbean

Newly born Hurricane Tomas swept through a cluster of eastern Caribbean islands damaging houses.

Updated: Oct 31, 2010, 15:03 PM IST

Castries: Newly born Hurricane
Tomas swept through a cluster of eastern Caribbean islands
on Sunday, tearing off roofs, damaging houses and downing power
lines.

Authorities in St Vincent were trying to confirm
reports that three people died, including two men who might
have been blown off a roof, said Jimmy Prince, emergency
management spokesman.

Fierce winds tore roofs from nearly 100 homes and more
than 400 people sought emergency shelter as the island plunged
into darkness, he said.

"Many of them are workers who were unable to get off
Mustique," he said, referring to a tiny island just south of
St Vincent.

In St Lucia, winds ripped off the roof of a hospital,
a school, a stadium and toppled a large concrete cross from
the roof of a century-old church, government officials said.

Heavy rains also unleashed a landslide that blocked a
main highway linking the capital to the island`s southern
region.

Prime Minister Stephenson King said he was still
stranded in Barbados on an official trip and apologised to
people on an island that reported a complete blackout.

"It hurts me to know that I am not around to give
courage, strength and guidance at a time when we all must bond
together and give support to each other," he said in a
statement.

The government ordered two airports and all businesses
closed and people called radio stations to admonish parents
who were letting children play in the streets, where trees and
power lines were falling.

"This is no joke," said calypso singer Nintus, one of
the callers.

Organisers of the island`s biggest Creole festival
called off the event due to the storm, disappointing both
would-be revellers and dozens of vendors who travelled to the
capital to sell vegetables, fruits and other provisions.

"All my preparations have gone down the drain," said
vendor Theckla Darius, from the rural community of Fond Assau.
"It`s been a lot of effort for nothing."

St Vincent and Martinique, where at least 20,000
people were without power, streets flooded and tree branches
were down. A cruise ship carrying nearly 2,000 tourists docked
instead in Dominica.

Tomas had already knocked down power lines and damaged
houses in Barbados as a tropical storm.

PTI