7 Sep 2008

Hurricane Ike threatens Cuba and Gulf

9:33 pm on 7 September 2008

Hurricane Ike has reached Caribbean islands, bringing winds of 215km per hour, just days after Tropical Storm Hanna caused havoc in the region.

The category 4 hurricane struck the Turks and Caicos islands with severe winds and driving rain.

The tiny chain of islands' premier Michael Missick warned residents to move away from coastal areas.

Hurricane Ike is now heading towards Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico.

Ike could reach Haiti within the next 24 hours. However, the worst effects are expected to be felt in Cuba.

If it stays on its projected course, Ike will cut across the island from east to west, putting the crumbling colonial buildings of the capital, Havana, at risk.

Cuba has issued a hurricane watch for its eastern provinces.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Hanna has drenched the US Atlantic coast after coming ashore in the Carolinas. Torrential rain from Hanna earlier killed 529 people in Haiti.

Hanna struck in the wake of Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Fay two weeks ago, which left about 120 people dead in Haiti.

The worst-hit area is the port city of Gonaives, where flooding has left about 200,000 people with little food or water.

The United Nations says its agencies are making progress in getting food and water to people in Haiti affected by the massive flooding.

But the UN's World Food programme says they have been struggling to get emergency aid to the worst hit areas, including Gonaives, and the south which was also badly affected by Hurricane Gustav.

It says so far they have managed to ship and fly in drinking water and high energy biscuits for about 21,000 people.

About 3,000 people died in Gonaives four years ago when the city was drowned by Tropical Storm Jeanne.

Two New Zealand Red Cross workers are to fly to Haiti to help the organisation coordinate its response: Pat Maunsell of Christchurch and Peter Moore from Wellington will help establish a telecommunications system.