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Hurricane Ike Hits Rain-Soaked Haiti, Cuba


Hurricane Ike hits Haiti and Cuba, bringing heavy rains to areas already soaked by earlier storms. Haitian authorities say at least 57 people were killed by the latest storm north of the capital. VOA's Brian Wagner has this report from Miami.

Hurricane Ike battered Cuba, destroying crops, flattening trees and flooding streets on the eastern half of the island. Cuban officials said they had evacuated nearly one million people from the path of the storm, which was expected to affect most of the country, including the capital, Havana.

Earlier, Ike dumped several centimeters of rain in Haiti, worsening conditions in areas already suffering from floods and mud slides caused by earlier storms. Officials say several deaths were reported in the Cabaret region, north of the capital, which appears to have been hardest hit by Ike. More than 300 people have been killed by storms in Haiti in recent weeks.

Elizabeth Cooke is a U.S. graduate student working on a development project near Gonaives, which has suffered scores of deaths in the recent storms. She says many people have lost everything.

"People have left their homes to find whatever dry ground they can," said Cooke. "But there is no way to go back to the houses right now, because the water is just sitting."

Cooke says relief aid has been slow to come to Gonaives, where many roads have been cut off or damaged.

U.S. military officials say a naval ship is off the coast of Haiti to begin delivering relief supplies by helicopter.

The United Nations is rushing clean water, food and other supplies to aid tens of thousands of people in Haiti and other nearby countries.

Weather forecasters say Hurricane Ike will remain a concern as it moves west into the Gulf of Mexico, where it may regain strength over warm waters. The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm is on a similar path to Hurricane Gustav, which entered the Gulf of Mexico and struck the U.S. gulf coast one week ago. Forecasters say Ike could reach the Texas coast by Saturday or Sunday.

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