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Tropical Storm Noel Kills 22 in Caribbean


Officials in Dominican Republic say at least 16 people have died in flash floods and mudslides caused by Tropical Storm Noel. In Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports the storm is continuing to drop heavy rains as it moves over Cuba and toward the Bahamas and Florida.

Radar has shown the center of Tropical Storm Noel moving across the island of Cuba, bringing heavy rain and winds of about 75 kilometers per hour.

Forecaster Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm has not reached hurricane status, but it still poses a serious threat to the region.

"Rain is going to be the problem with Noel for a lot of folks through the Caribbean particularly Hispaniola, the Bahamas and eastern Cuba," he said. "Hispaniola is at the greatest threat right now."

Feltgen says the Dominican Republic has been hardest hit by the storm's torrential rains, including up to 30 centimeters of rainfall in some parts of the country.

Dominican officials say the storm cut off power across the island and destroyed roads, bridges and other infrastructure when it hit on Monday. Scores of families lost their homes, and more than 20 people were reported missing after the storm moved through. Some non-governmental relief groups said they expect the official death toll to rise as reports arrive from remote areas.

Some Dominican residents say they were unprepared for the storm because its path shifted after initial forecasts showed it moving towards Haiti, on the western side of Hispaniola.

Officials in Haiti said the storm caused minor damage and at least two deaths were reported.

Forecasters say the center of Noel will remain over central Cuba until early Wednesday, when it will re-emerge over water. They say the storm is not expected to gain considerable strength, but heavy rainfall will continue as the storm shifts towards the northeast on its way toward Florida and the Bahamas later in the week.

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