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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 September, 2003, 03:14 GMT 04:14 UK
Bermuda counts cost of hurricane
Hurricane damaged house
Even Bermuda's famously sturdy houses were unable to resist the winds
The people of Bermuda have been assessing the damage caused by a powerful hurricane which swept into the British territory on Friday afternoon, leaving a trail of destruction and four people missing.

Hurricane Fabian, pushing winds of 193 kilometres per hour (120 miles per hour), was the worst to hit the island in 50 years.

Some 25,000 homes are still without electricity after power lines were downed, trees snapped and roofs ripped off by the force of the wind.

"We have experienced a considerable beating," John Burchall, a spokesman for the Bermuda Government said, as officials warned that it will take days to fully assess the damage

We are going to come together like we always do. The world will watch us and learn about real community
Premier Alex Scott
The four missing people - two police officers and two civilians - are thought to have been swept into the sea in their cars as they travelled along a shattered causeway connecting the main island to the airport.

Divers have joined the search for the four, but their efforts have been hampered by poor visibility.

According to government spokeswoman Valerie Pethen, nine people had to be treated for hurricane-related injuries, but none of them were serious.

Unable to return home

The direct hit from the Category 3 hurricane has caused damage to some of Bermuda's famously sturdy houses, which are built to withstand the high winds which often buffet the island.

"We've gotten lots of reports of slate that covers many roofs blowing away. We've had minor structural damage from debris such as broken windows and downed power lines," police spokesman Dwayne Caines said.

Causeway to Bermuda's airport
The causeway to the island's airport was smashed

Dozens of locals from coastal areas have been forced to remain in the government shelters or inland hotels where they had sought refuge as the storm made landfall.

There are reports of extensive flooding and the island's celebrated golf courses have been devastated.

Massive waves pummelled yachts which had taken shelter in the island's ports, and three men had a lucky escape when they spent the night battling 6-metre (20 foot) high swells after their boat broke its moorings.

The owner of the new US$200,000 boat, Jay Simmons, told the Associated Press he was not prepared to let the vessel go down without a fight and called upon his brother Vaughan and friend Brendan Robinson to help.

"My life flashed before my eyes a few times. I don't think I have ever seen anything like this and I don't think I will again. We are lucky to be alive," Mr Simmons said.

Navy taskforce

Despite the destruction the spirit of the locals remains unbroken and the clean-up operation has already begun:

"I am so very glad I am a Bermudian because I know what is going to happen next. We are going to come together like we always do. The world will watch us and learn about real community," Premier Alex Scott said as he toured the island on Saturday.

A Royal Navy taskforce is on its way to Bermuda to help with the efforts.

"At this time, the full extent of the damage to the island's infrastructure is unclear but our Royal Navy taskforce, together with the local authorities, will work hard to restore essential services as fast as possible," said Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Richard Forrest
"The people of Bermuda haven't seen a storm like it in more than half a century"



SEE ALSO:
Hurricane pummels Bermuda
06 Sep 03  |  Americas
In pictures: Bermuda hurricane
06 Sep 03  |  Photo Gallery


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