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Bermuda emerges unscathed from Hurricane Igor

by Staff Writers
Hamilton, Bermuda (AFP) Sept 20, 2010
Bermuda was cleaning up Monday after emerging mostly unscathed from Hurricane Igor, which hit the island chain with ferocious winds and rains causing huge power otages, but no loss of life.

The unusually large category one storm had an eye that was bigger than Bermuda, and it was feared that it would flatten the British overseas territory of some 65,000 inhabitants when it struck Sunday.

But in the end Igor's impact was limited with little structural damage, despite a massive loss of power that affected every corner of the island chain.

Power company Belco said 28,700 of its 35,000 customers were without electricity. It was not immediately known how long Bermudans would have to go without power, but past outages from major storms have lasted days.

The sheer size of the storm -- which had a wind field of nearly 600 miles (965 kilometers) -- meant Bermuda was in for a continued battering even as Igor retreated, with tropical storm strength winds anticipated for much of the day.

Premier Ewart Brown sounded the alarm late last week that Igor could prove prove as devastating as Hurricane Fabian, which claimed four lives and caused millions of dollars of damage in 2003. Those fears proved unfounded however.

The biggest hit, perhaps, was to the tourism industry that drives the economy here.

Officials said they suffered a big loss in bookings for the weekend, after an exodus of tourists on Thursday and Friday, although many visitors chose to ride out the storm in their hotels.

Despite the relatively soft blow from Igor, there were still plenty of visible signs that a major storm had blown through. Palm trees were stripped bare, some homes had roofs with gaping holes or that were dislodged.

Several boats, including a government ferry, broke free of their moorings and crashed onto rocks, while tree branches were strewn across roadways.

Chris Gauntlett, of the Bermuda Regiment, said army patrols had been conducting a thorough damage assessment since shortly after dawn.

"We have between four and five teams out at the moment. So far they are reporting minor obstruction issues from fallen trees, one or two downed power lines and some roofs partially blown off," he said.

Soldiers evacuated a 26-year-old life support patient and transported him to a hospital after the power went out at his home. They also came to the aid of three people when their car got stuck in sand on a beach late Sunday.

The LF Wade International Airport, which canceled all arriving and departing flights, was to remain closed through early Tuesday.

Shops were shut Monday and schools were to remain shuttered through Wednesday. Meanwhile, the causeway bridge, which sustained minor damage, was expected to reopen later in the day.

When it crashed on shore overnight, Igor packed sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour that whipped up huge waves on Bermuda's southern coast, washing out some beaches and threatening coastal resorts.

At 11:00 am Monday (1500 GMT), the hurricane was 275 miles (445 kilometers) north of the island and picking up speed as it churned northward at 24 miles (39 kilometers) per hour with maximum sustained winds still at about 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour.

Officials said they expected little or no change in the massive storm in the coming 48 hours, except it would become a "strong extratropical cyclone" as it moves northward toward the Newfoundland province of Canada.

Normally referred to in the singular, Bermuda is actually a group of 138 islands, many of them small and uninhabited. The chain spans only 22 square miles (57 square kilometers).

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