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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 August 2007, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Hurricane bears down on Jamaica
Fisherman pulls boat out of water in Kingston, Jamaica - 19/08/07
Residents were securing their belongings before heading inland
Jamaica is braced for what could be a devastating storm as Hurricane Dean blows in from the Caribbean Sea.

The island sits right in Dean's path and meteorologists warn the storm could have "potentially catastrophic" results, dumping 20in (50cm) of rain.

Low-lying areas are being evacuated and schools and churches are being converted into emergency shelters for those with nowhere else to stay.

Dean has already claimed at least six lives in the eastern Caribbean.

People are very quiet and suppressed. There's a lot of fear around
Suzanne Dodd
Kingston, Jamaica
BBC News website reader

However, Haiti and the Dominican Republic were spared the worst of its 230km/h (145mph) winds overnight, as it passed to the south, though there was some flooding in coastal areas.

As Jamaica closed airports and imposed curfews, the US said it was prepared to fly in aid if necessary.

Areas of the Cayman Islands and Mexican coast are also being evacuated, amid meteorological reports the storm could intensify into a Category Five hurricane after it leaves Jamaica.

In the US, the return of the space shuttle Endeavour was brought forward by a day in a bid to beat the hurricane should it eventually reach Texas, where Nasa's mission control is based.

High alert

The National Hurricane Centre in Miami has warned that Dean could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides in Jamaica.

We are aware that the hurricane is in fact positioned for a likely direct hit and as such we have pulled out all our response agencies
Krechet Creaves
official in Jamaica's emergency planning department

"Everywhere along the coast should be taking every precaution possible to save lives," spokeswoman Rebecca Waddington told the BBC's World Service.

Jamaica is on full alert. Off-duty police officers and fire-fighters have been ordered to report for duty so they can help with security and rescue operations.

Krechet Creaves, an official in Jamaica's emergency planning department, said the island was aware it could suffer a "direct hit".

"As such we have pulled out all our response agencies, we have put them on high alert," she told the BBC.

Early on Sunday morning people were still heading to hardware stores to get boarding for their houses and there were long queues at petrol stations and supermarkets.

Some areas were placed under a 48-hour curfew, which started at 1800 (2300 GMT) on Saturday.

In other parts of the Caribbean

  • Cayman Airways put on 15 extra flights from the Cayman Islands to Florida, as thousands fled the British territory
  • In Cuba, tens of thousands of people in the east were being evacuated and officials said tourist programmes had been suspended
  • Officials in the French territory of Martinique estimated the damage caused by the hurricane would cost more than 150m euros ($200m; 100m) to repair

Six dead

Rough waves damaged buildings on the coast of the Dominican Republic and thousands of people were left without electricity and took refuge in schools and churches on the Haitian island of Gonave.

Six deaths have been confirmed as a result of Dean

  • A boy was swept out to sea and drowned in the Dominican Republic's capital, Santo Domingo
  • In Martinique, a woman in her early 80s died of a suspected heart attack during the hurricane's passage while a man died after sustaining a fall
  • In Dominica, a landslide crushed a woman and her seven-year-old son while they slept in their home
  • A man aged 62 was swept away and drowned when he tried to retrieve a cow from a rain-swollen river

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VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Nasa images of Hurricane Dean from space



SEE ALSO
'Up there with the biggest'
19 Aug 07 |  Americas
In pictures: Hurricane Dean
19 Aug 07 |  In Pictures
Hurricane Dean: Readers' updates
18 Aug 07 |  Have Your Say
Hurricane fears shorten spacewalk
18 Aug 07 |  Science/Nature
Animated guide: Hurricanes
01 Jun 05 |  Science/Nature

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