Flood alert as Hurricane Sandy reaches Jamaica


Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the south-east coast of Jamaica yesterday, posing a major flood risk to low-lying areas near the capital, Kingston.

Schools and businesses closed and emergency authorities moved residents in low-lying, flood-prone areas into shelters as steady rain and winds pounded the Caribbean island.

There was little activity on the streets of Kingston as residents heeded the call by authorities to stay at home, while Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller cut short a five-day trip to Canada to get home before the storm. "We must all be careful. Those who can move into shelters should do so now," she said.

The government had already closed the island's two international airports in Kingston and Montego Bay on Tuesday night. Several roads were flooded and blocked by fallen trees, and mudslides were reported near villages on the outskirts of Kingston. Police imposed curfews on 80 communities across Jamaica as a deterrent to looting during the passage of the storm.

Looters shot and wounded a senior police officer on patrol in one volatile community. Police confirmed that Senior Superintendent of Police Terrence Bent, 44, was shot yesterday afternoon as he led a group of policemen through a section of West Kingston called Craig Town.

Computer models showed Sandy was on a projected path that would cut across the middle of Jamaica, with the eye passing close to Kingston and the popular north-coast resort of Ocho Rios, before moving over eastern Cuba and losing hurricane strength as it reaches the Bahamas.

A hurricane watch was also issued for central and northwestern Bahamas, and a tropical-storm watch was in place for south Florida, though computer models show the centre of Sandy is expected to pass well to the east of the Florida coast. reuters