Storm breaks disaster records

HURRICANE GEORGES, which pummelled the eastern Caribbean, the Florida Keys and other parts of the US last month, could break the record for American Red Cross disaster relief, agency officials said yesterday.

"Hurricane Andrew had the highest previous record at $81.5 million, and we are rapidly surpassing that and reaching the $100 million [pounds 63m] anticipated mark at this time," said Elizabeth Quirk, a Red Cross public- affairs officer.

"We are looking at the probability that this may become the largest single disaster operation in the history of the American Red Cross." Hurricane Andrew caused immense damage to parts of Florida when it struck in 1992.

Georges formed off the coast of Africa as a tropical storm in mid-September before heading across the Atlantic and crossing one Caribbean island after another in a deadly rampage. The storm hit Antigua, St Kitts, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before raking the Florida Keys. It made a landfall for the last time on 28 September along the Mississippi coastline.

Over the US, the storm system moved so slowly that its rains flooded parts of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

In addition to its work in the US mainland areas hit by Georges, the American Red Cross is helping out Puerto Rico, St Thomas and St Croix in the US Virgin Islands.

Georges's official death-toll stood at 468 yesterday, with at least 267 fatalities reported in the Dominican Republic, 173 in Haiti, 11 in Puerto Rico, four in St Kitts, two in Antigua, one in the Bahamas, six in Cuba and four in the US.

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