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Tropical Storm Fay kills 4 in Haiti, Dominican Republic; heads to Cuba, Fla.

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Associated Press / August 17, 2008
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Flooding from Tropical Storm Fay killed four people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and authorities warned yesterday that the storm could reach hurricane strength as it barreled toward Cuba and Florida.

Governor Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency for Florida and said Fay threatened the state with a "major disaster." Forecasters said Fay could bring hurricane-force winds to the Florida Keys as soon as tomorrow.

Fay could hit Florida as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, with winds possibly reaching more than 100 miles per hour, forecasters said, stressing that it was too early to tell how intense it would become.

The US National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was about 60 miles south of Guantanamo, Cuba, yesterday. It was heading west at about 16 mile per hour, with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour.

A man died yesterday in Haiti while trying to cross a river in Leogane, south of Port-au-Prince, said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of Haiti's civil protection department.

Rice fields in the Artibonite Valley, Haiti's most fertile region, were flooded, according to reports from Radio Ginen. And Fay's heavy winds destroyed banana crops in Arcahaie, north of the capital, although it is unclear how many acres were affected. Haiti has struggled to cope with a food crisis that sparked deadly riots in April.

The capital's airport reopened yesterday afternoon, but heavy rains were still expected in the south.

In the neighboring Dominican Republic, a 34-year-old woman drowned when a family tried to cross a swollen river in a car, civil defense agency director Luis Luna Paulino said. The bodies of her missing 13-year-old niece and 5-year-old nephew were found yesterday afternoon, but her husband swam to safety.

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