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Bush tours Hurricane Ivan's devastation in Florida
MIAMI (AFP) Sep 19, 2004
Americans across a huge swath of the eastern United States on Sunday set about cleaning up from deadly Hurricane Ivan, as President George W. Bush arrived in Florida to survey storm-ravaged disaster areas.

Bush's trip to Florida marks his third in six weeks to tour parts of the key electoral state hit by hurricanes, after Charley and Frances also ripped through. He was also due to visit the neighboring state of Alabama, which also suffered substantial damage from Ivan.

Forecasters closed the book on Ivan as its remnants dissipated over the Atlantic Ocean, following a devastating 12-day rampage that left at least 108 dead in the United States and the Caribbean.

But an end to the clean-up and the mourning were nowhere in sight for countries devastated by the storm that left at least 70 dead in the Caribbean and 38 in the United States.

Rivers were still cresting in West Virginia and the latest death occurred north of New York City, when a sailor's boat capsized in rough waters off Connecticut.

In devastated areas of northwestern Florida, still without power and water, people began lining up to buy gasoline well before dawn.

As the US death toll climbed, a French diplomat returning from a mission to Grenada, one of the first targets of the storm, described "complete desolation" there.

French rescue workers helped reopen roadways and a hospital in a week-long sojourn in the tiny Caribbean island state, which suffered 37 deaths when Ivan pummeled it September 8, he said.

"Most of the roofs have been blown off, houses are open to the skies, and you even see slabs of walls ripped out,," Saint Lucia-based French Ambassador for the Eastern Caribbean states, Bernard Venzo, said Saturday.

Ivan first menaced the Caribbean island of Tobago on September 7 before pounding Grenada, Barbados, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Cayman Islands.

Thursday, the monster storm slammed into the US Gulf Coast, still packing winds of up to 215 kilometers per hour (135 miles an hour), with a fury that wrecked houses and buildings and caused widespread flooding.

Authorities launched a huge relief operation Friday and Saturday along the Gulf Coast even as Ivan's rains fell, causing flooding from Georgia through Maryland and spawning damaging tornadoes.

The storm dumped heavy rain on much of the eastern US Saturday before finally moving out to sea.

The storm killed at least 38 in a wide area stretching from Louisiana on the Gulf Coast to Maryland, a small mid-Atlantic state adjacent to the US capital, to Connecticut, north of New York.

Maryland State Police Sergeant John Blades said at least five tornadoes touched down in the state Saturday.

Thousands of homes were flattened by the third major hurricane to hit the southern United States in six weeks.

Insurance experts have estimated the cost at up to 10 billion dollars, making it one of the most expensive in US history.

Bush, who has declared Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina disaster areas, was to see relief work in Alabama and Florida Sunday.

He also declared Puerto Rico a disaster zone, after Tropical Storm Jeanne killed two there and seven in the Dominican Republic.

Jeanne moved north of the Bahamas early Sunday and was expected to stay out to sea for the next few days.

Meanwhile, far off in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, a new hurricane brewed, the fifth major hurricane of the season. Karl, located almost 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) west of Cape Verde Islands, was projected to arc northeast over the Atlantic, keeping well away from land.

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