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. Bahamas digs out after blast from Hurricane Ike

This September 8, 2008 NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Ike seen at 1402 GMT. After ravaging the Turks and Caicos Islands, Hurricane Ike headed toward the Bahamas, Cuba and the US Gulf Coast, as Tropical Storm Hurricane Ike raged across Cuba on Monday with torrential rain and winds as Haiti struggled with a growing humanitarian crisis after four hurricanes in four weeks. Cuba carried out mass evacuations of residents and tourists before Ike -- the second hurricane in less than a week after Gustav -- made landfall at Punta Lucrecia on the eastern coast and then weakened slightly. More than 800,000 people were moved away from coastal areas eastern Cuba and more than 9,000 foreign tourists were moved out of the resort of Varadero. "In all of Cuba's history, we have never had two hurricanes this close together," lamented the head of Cuba's meteorological service, Jose Rubiera, on state television. At 0900 GMT, the eye of storm was 40 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of Camaguey and moving west, according to the US National Hurricane Center. Still packing winds of near 105 miles (165 kilometers) an hour with higher gusts, the US National Hurrican Center said Ike was a category two storm, down from a three on the five level Saffir-Simpson scale. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Freeport, Bahamas (AFP) Sept 8, 2008
The southern Bahamas was picking up the pieces Monday after Hurricane Ike blasted the chain of islands, forcing residents into shelters, damaging infrastructure and jeopardizing thousands of protected flamingos.

The Bahamas' southernmost Great Inagua island suffered a direct hit with homes destroyed, government buildings severely damaged and power and telephones knocked out for the island's 1,000 residents, the National Emergency Management Agency said in a post-storm briefing.

Hurricane Ike lashed the Turks and Caicos Islands late Saturday as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm, reportedly causing massive damage on the British colony before unleashing its fury Sunday on the Bahamas and roaring west to traumatize Cuba.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who was expected to tour Great Inagua Monday or Tuesday, put on a brave face as the island began to dig out from the damage.

"We are very pleased that the building codes have held up quite well, especially with a Category 4 hurricane, and that the people in the community have followed the necessary advisories," he said during the briefing televised from the capital Nassau.

"We have been spared a major, major disaster," he said, adding that no fatalities had been reported.

Other islands in the southern Bahamas such as Mayaguana, Acklins and Crooked Island were also affected but experienced less devastating damage.

One concern is the fate of the largest breeding colony of West Indian flamingos in Inagua National Park -- a major tourist attraction which reported extensive damage.

The Bahamas National Trust says the large pink birds -- numbered at 50,000 in the park -- were pushed to the edge of extinction 40 years ago due to hunting and habitat destruction but have rebounded after Inagua's wetlands and parts of other islands were set aside to protect the species.

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600,000 evacuate as Cuba braces for Hurricane Ike
Havana (AFP) Sept 7, 2008
Barely a week after Hurricane Gustav devastated western Cuba, the island was battening down the hatches again Sunday for another killer storm, with more than half a million people evacuating Cuba's northeast coast, officials said.

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