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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 15:25 GMT

World: Americas

Hurricane continues destructive path

Lenny has 145mph winds but is only moving at about 9mph

Hurricane Lenny is threatening to wreak havoc across another string of Caribbean Islands after sweeping through the Virgin Islands at near catastrophic strength.

Warnings were issued on Thursday to the Dutch territories of St Maarten, St Eustatius and Saba, and the British island of Anguilla - all of which are thought to be in the path of the eye of the storm.

(Click here to see a map of the islands in Lenny's path)

Four people are already reported to have been killed as the storm cut a swathe through the region, from Grenada in the Windward Islands to Aruba off the Venezuelan coast.

[ image: The island of Aruba near Venezuela also felt the force of the hurricane]
The island of Aruba near Venezuela also felt the force of the hurricane
Two fishermen drowned off Colombia's Caribbean peninsula on Tuesday when rains destroyed half a coastal village.

One man died in the Puerto Rican capital, San Juan, after he fell from a ladder as he tried to board up windows.

And a man in St Maarten died on Wednesday when the garden wall of his home collapsed on him.

The eye of the storm was about 35 miles (60km) west-south-west of Dutch St Maarten at 0900 GMT on Thursday.

Houses in coastal areas on the Leeward Islands have been swept away and there is widespread flooding.

As the storm approaches it has whipped up 3.6m waves stripping sand from Anguilla's famous beaches and forcing 100 tourists to be evacuated from a flooded hotel.

Storm 'surprised forecasters'

[ image: Residents of Puerto Rico escaped the worst of Lenny]
Residents of Puerto Rico escaped the worst of Lenny
The hurricane left a trail of devastation as it battered the US Virgin Island of St Croix on Wednesday.

A 2.5m wall of water flooded parts of the island and clogged roads with sand. Winds shattered the windows at a school serving as a shelter, forcing more than 110 people to flee to another shelter.

A tourist who ventured out of a hotel to see the rising surf was carried away by waves and had to cling to a rock for more than an hour before local divers rescued him, US Virgin Islands Governor Charles Turnbull said.

[ image: Caribbean islands are being lashed by wind and rain]
Caribbean islands are being lashed by wind and rain
The 55,000 inhabitants of the island were unprepared for the intensity of the storm.

John Stout, a professor at the University of the Virgin Islands in St Croix, explained: "It snuck up on us so fast. We were only prepared for a category one or two."

The storm had strengthened into a strong category four on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale as it approached the island and was close to being classified a category five - a "potentially catastrophic" storm.

'State of emergency'

The governors of the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have asked US President Bill Clinton to declare states of emergency for the two US territories.

Puerto Rico's 3.8 million residents were spared the brunt of the storm but heavy rains caused floods prompting fears of mudslides.

More than 4,700 people were in shelters on Wednesday, 80,000 were without electricity, and 100,000 lacked safe drinking water, Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rossello said.

Lenny passed south of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, veering north-east in the evening.

Earlier in the week, huge waves washed away houses in Grenada and St Lucia.

The hurricane has surprised forecasters because it formed so late in the hurricane season and has an unusual west-to-easterly direction.

[ image:  ]

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