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Hurricane Ivan Brings Heavy Flooding to Jamaica - 2004-09-11

Hurricane Ivan has killed at least two people in Jamaica and the death toll is expected to rise as the storm pounds the island with 240 kilometers per hour winds and heavy rains. So far more than 40 people have been killed by the storm as it continues its path through the Caribbean.

The center of Ivan passed about 60 kilometers south of Jamaica's capital Kingston, sparing Kingston residents from the full brunt of the storm. Heavy damage is reported across Jamaica with flooding and high winds uprooting trees and destroying thousands of structures.

Just before the storm struck Jamaica, it wobbled to the west but forecasters say it is too early to tell whether Ivan will take a more westerly track towards the Gulf of Mexico. Florida's state meteorologist Ben Nelson says Ivan will likely strike the Cayman Islands and then Cuba before moving on a northwest track towards Florida.

"Again, we expect an approach towards western Cuba by Sunday night as a category four and potentially a category five hurricane," said Ben Nelson. "This could potentially spread hurricane force winds into the Florida keys as early as Sunday night. We urge all residents along the entire gulf coast of the state to bring their family preparedness plans to completion."

Authorities in the Cayman Islands have posted a hurricane warning and told residents to prepare for a direct hit from Hurricane Ivan. In Cuba panic buying was reported as residents prepare for Ivan's arrival on Sunday.

A mandatory evacuation has been in place for the Florida Keys since Friday and thousands of residents have moved to shelters north of the island chain. Ivan will be the third hurricane in a month to strike Florida, after hurricanes Charley and Frances, but Governor Jeb Bush told reporters on Saturday the state is prepared.

"We are working together to make sure that we continue to provide for the recovery of Charley, for the relief of people that were hit by Frances, and now the preparation for what appears to be an even bigger storm," Governor Bush said.

Tens of thousands of Florida residents are still without power as a result of Hurricane Frances, which hit eastern and central Florida last week.

There is also widespread destruction in the Caribbean, especially in Grenada, where Ivan did the most damage, destroying about 80 percent of the structures on the island and killing scores of people. The International Committee of the Red Cross is launching an emergency appeal to assist thousands of people on the Caribbean Island.