Deadly storm heads toward Bahamas with diminished winds

Saturday, September 18, 2004

SAMANA, Dominican Republic -- Slow-moving Tropical Storm Jeanne lashed the Dominican Republic on Friday with wind and rain that triggered mudslides and collapsed walls before it weakened to a tropical depression and headed toward the Bahamas. Eight were killed across the Caribbean.

A Dominican man was crushed to death by a falling palm tree Friday, and another died from a heart attack when he couldn't get to a hospital because of the storm, said Juan Luis German, spokesman for the National Emergency Committee. A third man drowned when he was swept up in a swollen river next to his house, German said.

All three deaths occurred in El Seybo, a town 80 miles northeast of Santo Domingo, the capital where the storm's torrential rain set off a landslide Thursday that smashed part of a house and killed an infant girl inside.

Thousands were stranded on rooftops of flooded homes in San Pedro de Macoris, where the River Soco burst its banks. Authorities used helicopters to rescue people in the northeastern fishing town, birthplace of baseball star Sammy Sosa.

After hitting the Dominican Republic on Thursday as a hurricane with winds of 80 mph, the storm gradually lost power and was downgraded to a depression late Friday afternoon with 35 mph winds.

The storm was moving on a course that would take it through the Bahamas late today, but it was too soon to tell whether it would strengthen or affect Florida, which has been battered by three hurricanes. The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for the Bahamas due to the threat posed by Jeanne.

"It would take a while for it to strengthen at this point," said Brian Jarvinen, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. "For the Bahamas, I think they'll just be looking at tropical storm force winds. On Florida, we're not out of the woods yet but it's still too soon to say what will happen with the depression."

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