PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Monday, October 29, 2012 – Even as the United States braces for Sandy’s impact, officials raised the storm-related death toll across the Caribbean to 65, with 51 of those coming in Haiti.
While Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas took direct hits from the storm, the majority of deaths and most extensive damage was in impoverished Haiti, where it has rained almost non-stop since Tuesday.
“This is a disaster of major proportions,” Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told The Associated Press.
He explained that the death toll jumped on Saturday because it was the first day that authorities were able to go out and assess the damage, which he estimated was in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the bulk of it in lost crops.
Sandy hit eastern Cuba as a Category 2 hurricane early Thursday and also killed 11 people while destroying or damaging tens of thousands of houses – 5,000 houses are said to have at least partially collapse while 30,000 others lost roofs.
Officials in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba placed initial estimate of losses caused by at one of the highest in its history caused by a meteorological phenomenon, estimating losses at over 2.1 billion pesos. They projected this figure would increase once the count of damages in the tourism, sugar, construction and other sectors is concluded. First Secretary of the Communist Party in Holguin province Jorge Cuevas also described the economic losses for that territory as “huge”.
One person was also reported killed in Jamaica and according to Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke ,“The estimates coming out of 11 parishes indicate that we have suffered some JAM$700 million worth of damage and that does not include St. Thomas, Portland and parts of St. Catherine. Those areas were hit hard.” Jamaica’s emergency management office was on Sunday airlifting supplies to marooned communities in remote areas of four badly impacted parishes.
The Bahamas also recorded a fatality as Timothy Fraser-Smith, the British chief executive officer of Deltec Bank & Trust fell off his balcony to his death in the upscale Lyford Cay late Thursday while trying to repair a window shutter. Wolf Seyfert, operations director at local airline Western Air, said the domestic terminal of Grand Bahamas’ airport received “substantial damage” from Sandy’s battering storm surge and would need to be rebuilt.
In Puerto Rico, police said a man in his 50s died Friday in the southern town of Juana Diaz, swept away in a river swollen by rain from Sandy’s outer bands. Flooding forced at least 100 families in southwestern Puerto Rico to seek shelter.
Authorities evacuated more than 18,100 people after the storm destroyed several bridges and isolated at least 130 communities. Heavy rains and wind also damaged an estimated 3,500 homes.