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Cubans Prepare For Hurricane Ivan  - 2004-09-12

The center of Hurricane Ivan passed to the south of the Cayman Islands, and appears headed for a direct strike on Cuba. The storm has killed more than 50 people as it passes through the Caribbean. There are fears that it will cause major damage when it strikes Cuba sometime Monday.

Just as it spared Jamaica from catastrophic damage, Ivan spared The Caymans. The center of the storm passed about 80 kilometers south of Grand Cayman, uprooting trees, and ripping off roofs. But Ivan did not bring the sort of devastating destruction to The Caymans it brought to Grenada last week, where it destroyed more than 80 percent of the structures on the island.

Ivan is forecast to strike Cuba early Monday. The center of the storm is expected to pass over land, somewhere west of the capital Havana.

Michael Formosa, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami says Cubans should be prepared for the worst.

"The hurricane force winds extend 90 miles from the center," he said. "So, basically, so, right where the eye of the storm is, that is where the major destruction is going to be. Of course, the whole swath of Cuba that gets affected by Ivan will have catastrophic damage."

A hurricane watch is in effect for all of western Cuba. Cuban President Fidel Castro went on television as Ivan approached to say his government is prepared. About 500,000 people have moved to shelters.

Meanwhile, Jamaicans are beginning to recover from Ivan, the worst hurricane to hit Jamaica since Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Ivan flooded roads, and many parts of the country are cut off from government assistance.

Cathy Barrett, the news director at RJR Radio in Kingston, says security forces have established control over urban areas, and largely curbed incidents of looting that broke out as Ivan passed near Jamaica.

"Yes, the security situation is basically under control," she said. "There have been some isolated incidents of looting. Our minister of national security, the Jamaica Defense Force and, of course, the police force has been out all over. But there have been some isolated incidents, and they are trying to get that under control. With the exception of that, throughout the rest of the country, people generally tend to feel safe. But there has been a public state of emergency that was ordered by the prime minister shortly before the hurricane hit to try and prevent this kind of thing, because we are out of electricity and water."

Forecasters say, once Ivan passes over Cuba, it will move out into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, sparing south Florida from being struck by a third hurricane in a month.

But they say, Ivan will probably come ashore somewhere in northern Florida later this week, and move through the southeast United States, bringing heavy flooding to a region already saturated by rain from the remnants of Hurricane Frances.