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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
Hurricane Ivan brushes Cuba's tip
Satellite picture of Ivan
Ivan drifted further west than anticipated
One of the fiercest storms on record is moving towards the Gulf of Mexico after lashing the western tip of Cuba.

Hurricane Ivan battered the island with winds gusting at 300km/h (186mph), after leaving a trail of destruction across the Caribbean.

The hurricane had been expected to hit Cuba head on, but the centre drifted west into a sparsely populated area.

It now seems to be heading towards the southern United States, but a hurricane warning remains in force in Mexico.

The hurricane touched the tip of Cuba at 1845 (2245GMT), according to the head of the country's National Meteorology Institute.


The BBC's Stephen Gibbs in Havana says there is a sense of relief as the country sees the back of Ivan.

We can recover on our own
Fidel Castro

The island certainly is not unscathed.

The damage resulting from nearly 24 hours of very high winds and torrential rain has yet to be assessed - but everyone knows that it could have been much worse, our correspondent says.

About 1.3 million Cubans were evacuated and thousands across the country sat out the storm in government shelters.

President Fidel Castro - who visited the region - made repeated TV appearances ahead of Ivan's arrival and urged people to follow instructions from state officials.

Mr Castro also said he would not accept "a penny" in hurricane aid from the United States.

"The hurricane before this they offered $50,000, an insignificant amount," he said referring to aid Washington proposed following Hurricane Charley last month.

"Even if they offered all that was necessary -$100m, $200m - we would not accept. We can recover on our own," Mr Castro added.

The subtle change of route may have serious consequences elsewhere in the region.

By not crossing land, the hurricane has retained its power as it heads into the Gulf of Mexico.

'As bad as it can get'

In Mexico, the government issued a hurricane warning from the city of Tulum to Progreso.

Grenada: At least 34 dead
Venezuela: 5 killed
Jamaica: at least 20 killed
Dominican Republic: 4 killed
Tobago: 1 killed

Some 12,000 residents and tourists are being evacuated from Isla Mujeres, an island about eight miles (13km) from the resort of Cancun.

The hurricane has killed more than 60 people throughout the Caribbean.

In the Cayman islands - a British dependency - Governor Bruce Dinwiddy described the damage as "very, very severe and widespread".

The Reuters news agency reported people clambering on to roof tops as waist-high storm surges propelled by 160mph (260km/h) winds swept across the island.

"It's as bad as it can possibly get," Grand Cayman Island resident Justin Uzzell told the Associated Press news agency by telephone.

"It's a horizontal blizzard. The air is just foam."

The US National Hurricane Center expects Ivan to move north into the "panhandle" region of Florida and neighbouring states.


The BBC's Stephen Gibbs
"The damage Ivan left behind is still emerging"


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