Gustav causes widespread flooding in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica, August 29, 2008 – Tropical Storm Gustav is expected to complete its passage over Jamaica and head to the Cayman Islands later this morning, leaving in its wake landslides, widespread flooding, and destroyed homes, after a full day of battering the country with heavy rains and strong winds.

But a hurricane warning remains in effect for the entire island as parishes continue to be affected by the torrential rainfall and windy conditions associated with the storm.

Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) reported early this morning that Gustav, which began pounding the island yesterday, had caused extensive flooding across the entire island, several landslides had occurred in areas in the upper part of the southeast parish of St Andrew and numerous roads were blocked by debris, fallen trees.

According to the ODPEM, the flood waters had trapped 30 people in the Judgment Yard section of August Town located in the eastern part of the capital, Kingston, and air lift and rescue operations had been organised to get them out.

ODPEM also reported that by 6 am today it had received reports that the strong winds had caused roof damage to a few homes and four other houses were completely destroyed.

Gustav began its assault on Jamaica early yesterday afternoon, prompting the evacuation of residents in low-lying areas, the closure of airports, a recall of public transport, and eventually a shutdown of the entire country.
Disaster management officials said that 76 shelters were opened across the island between yesterday and this morning and 1520 persons were being accommodated.

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said that at 8 am Gustav – which was near the western end of Jamaica, about 100 miles west-northwest of Kingston, and about 200 miles east-southeast of Grand Cayman – was moving toward the west-northwest near eight miles per hour and predicted it would turn toward the northwest by tomorrow.

“On this track, the centre of Gustav will leave Jamaica this morning, move near or over the Cayman Islands later today or tonight and move near or over western portions of Cuba on Saturday and Saturday night,” the NHC said.

According to the forecast Tropical Storm Gustav, carrying maximum sustained winds near 65 miles per hour with higher gusts, will likely strengthen during the new couple of days and become a hurricane either later today or tomorrow. It is predicted that it will become a major hurricane before reaching western Cuba.

Gustav is expected to dump six to 12 inches of rain across Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, with isolated maximum amounts of up to 25 inches possible.

Flash flooding and storm surges are also expected as the system moved away from Jamaica.

A hurricane warning remains in effect for the Cayman Islands, a hurricane watch is still in effect for western Cuba, and the NHC said that tropical storm watches may be required for portions of central Cuba later today.

Meanwhile, the eighth tropical storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, Hanna which developed yesterday near the northern Leeward Islands, was reported to be poorly organised at 5 am today.

It was located about 245 miles north-northeast of the islands and was moving toward the northwest near 14 miles per hour. According to the NHC, Hanna, which was carrying maximum sustained winds near 50 miles per hour, will move away from the Leeward Islands during the next day or so.

The NHC added that little change in strength is forecast today but Hanna could become a hurricane in a few days.