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Page last updated at 12:59 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 13:59 UK

Storm drenches south-west Florida

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People shelter from the tropical storm in Florida

Tropical Storm Fay has hit the south-west coast of Florida with heavy rains and strong winds.

Forecasters had earlier warned that Fay could reach hurricane force, but later said the storm should weaken after making landfall.

The storm crossed the Florida Keys and made landfall at about 0500 (0900 GMT) at Cape Romano, just south of Naples, with winds of about 60mph (96km/h).

A curfew was in place in Naples, but no serious damage was reported.

With a state of emergency in place, Florida Governor Charlie Crist said about 500 national guard members had been deployed, with another 8,500 on standby.

Power cuts were affecting about 5,800 residents on Marco Island, Collier County officials reported. They also said 148 people had spent the night in storm shelters.

Further north in the Tampa Bay area, schools and government offices remained closed.

However an evacuation order in Pinellas County for mobile home residents and others in vulnerable areas was lifted when the storm failed to reach hurricane status.

HOW HURRICANES FORM
Sign warns of Fay's imminent arrival on Key West on 18 August
Sea surface temperatures above 26.5C (79.7F)
A pre-existing weather disturbance
Moisture in the atmosphere
Favourable conditions, such as light winds or weak wind shear

"I think we're going to all enjoy a nice summer day," said Sally Bishop, the county's emergency management director.

Flooding is still a concern as Fay moves up the peninsula, with up to 25cm (10in) of rain forecast. A storm surge of up to 1.5m (5ft) above normal is still possible and the storm could also trigger tornadoes.

Heavy rain was also drenching Cuba, which suffered some flooding but no major damage.

Fay's passage over Haiti and the Dominican Republic was more destructive, with more than a dozen deaths reported.

There was confusion over an accident in Haiti, where a truck carrying up to 80 passengers plunged into a swollen river on Sunday.

Officials and witnesses said more than half the passengers were missing, with many feared drowned.

However, UN peacekeepers stationed in Haiti who arrived at the scene told the Associated Press that two babies had died in the accident but that 41 passengers had escaped to safety.

A civil protection officer, who had earlier said some 30 people were feared dead, also told AP that three bodies had been found.

Fay is the sixth tropical storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.

Two of the tropical storms so far, Bertha and Dolly, have reached hurricane strength.


SEE ALSO
Animated guide: Hurricanes
01 Jun 05 |  Science/Nature

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