Hurricane Emily strengthens after killing one in Grenada
Island still trying to recover from damage last year
ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada -- Hurricane Emily grew even more powerful yesterday after slamming into Grenada, tearing up crops, flooding streets, and striking at homes still under repair from last year's storms. At least one man was killed.
The storm strengthened to a dangerous Category 3 as it cleared the Windward Islands, unleashing heavy surf and rains along Venezuela's Caribbean coast.
The storm was packing sustained winds near 115 miles per hour and was moving west-northwest at about 21 miles per hour. The US National Hurricane Center in Miami predicts the second major hurricane of the Atlantic season will get even stronger.
Venezuelan authorities temporarily ordered some oil tankers to stay in port in the key oil refining zone of Puerto la Cruz, port captain Jose Jimenez Quintero said.
Emily struck hard in Grenada, especially in the parishes of St. Patrick's and St. Andrew's and on the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, authorities said.
The damage comes as Grenada is still recovering from last year's Hurricane Ivan, which destroyed thousands of residences and damaged 90 percent of the capital's historic Georgian buildings.
''This is a very, very major setback," said Barry Collymore, a spokesman for Prime Minister Keith Mitchell.
A man in his 40s was killed when a landslide crushed his home in St. Andrew's, said Allen McGuire, Grenada's consul general in New York.
In the capital, St. George's, winds blew out windows and caused flooding in a new hospital built with help from the Cuban government, Collymore said. Employees mistakenly reported that the roof of the operating room had been blown off, he said.
On Carriacou, the storm damaged the roof of the only hospital, forcing the evacuation of patients, officials said. Sixteen houses were destroyed and more than 200 were damaged, McGuire said.
Elsewhere in the country, two police stations and two homes for the elderly also lost their roofs, landslides and fallen trees blocked roads, streets were flooded, and crops were destroyed. The two outlying islands had largely been spared by Ivan, but elsewhere in Grenada, many of the homes damaged yesterday had still been under reconstruction, McGuire said.
Authorities asked the public to remain at home or in shelters, where more than 1,600 people took refuge, as they assessed the damage. More people would likely need shelter after losing their homes, McGuire said.
Mitchell, the prime minister, flew over the country to survey the destruction, Collymore said.
In Trinidad, there was widespread flooding, and at least one house washed away in the eastern community of Arima.
Jamaica was under a hurricane watch, while the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba posted tropical storm warnings. A tropical storm warning was also called for a portion of Venezuela's northern coast.
Before the storm in Grenada, Mitchell reassured citizens that the government would not be caught off-guard, as it was when Ivan killed 39 people and ruined buildings in September.
Grenadians rushed home under heavy rain, forming traffic jams in St. George's. They flocked to the stores Tuesday, snapping up canned food, water, and batteries. The rush contrasted with the attitude before Ivan, when islanders took few precautions.
''We took this very, very seriously," said Colin Dowe, an assistant dean at St. George's University, where dozens of students and faculty members waited out the storm. ''Ivan was much stronger, so the general feeling is that we can get through this."
The struggle to recover from Ivan has prevented Grenada from thoroughly preparing for this year's hurricane season. Amid a shortage of construction supplies, many islanders still have no roofs, and some children are still taught under tarps. Ivan's destruction left few buildings viable as shelters.
Emily trails Hurricane Dennis, which destroyed crops and killed at least 25 people in Haiti and 16 in Cuba last week, according to authorities in the two countries.