Hurricane Sandy batters Bahamas as US warned of super-storm

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Hurricane Sandy raged through the Bahamas yesterday after leaving 29 people dead across the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm to hit the US east coast with 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, 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, 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 $2.4bn (£1.5bn) in damage.

Sandy also killed one person while battering Jamaica on Wednesday and 16 in Haiti, where heavy rains from the storm’s outer bands caused flooding in the impoverished and deforested country.

Police in the Bahamas said a 66-year-old man died after falling from his roof in upmarket Lyford Cay late on Thursday while trying to repair a window shutter.

Yesterday morning the hurricane’s centre was about 15 miles (25km) east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 480 miles (770km) south-south-east of Charleston, South Carolina. Sandy was moving north-west at 10mph (17kph) with maximum sustained winds near 80mph (130kph).

Government officials in the Bahamas said the storm seems to have inflicted the greatest damage on Exuma, where there were reports of downed trees, power lines and damage to homes.

“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.”

With the storm projected to hit the Atlantic coast early on Tuesday, there was a 90 per cent chance that most of the US east coast would suffer steady gale-force winds, flooding, heavy rain and maybe snow starting tomorrow and stretching past Wednesday, American forecaster Jim Cisco said.

A new tropical storm watch was issued early yesterday for a section of the coast extending from Savannah, Georgia, northward to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Sandy was expected to remain a hurricane almost until reaching the US shoreline.