Gustav forms in Caribbean

August 25, 2008 12:54:06 PM PDT
Haitians were told to prepare for evacuations as Tropical Storm Gustav formed quickly in the Caribbean Monday on a path to hit the country's denuded southern coast as a full hurricane Tuesday morning before moving on to Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida.Haiti upgraded storm warnings to hurricane warnings across much of Haiti Monday as Gustav roared up from the south.

By 2 p.m. Monday, reports from an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicated that top sustained winds had already reached nearly 60 mph (97 kph) as Gustav moved northwest, the Miami-based National Hurricane center said.

Floods and landslides were possible across Haiti's southern peninsula, and the forecasts suggested that the eye could pass very closely to Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, home to nearly 3 million people.

Residents were told to stay on alert for evacuations and to avoid crossing flooded rivers, the cause of nearly all 23 deaths on Hispaniola during last week's Tropical Storm Fay.

The agricultural ministry, already dealing with a food crisis and fighting to raise national production, advised farmers to put livestock in safe locations. All maritime activities also were suspended until further notice.

Few people in Haiti's capital seemed aware of the brewing storm as rumors grew of new protests against high food and education prices planned for this week. Haitian radio reported that a handful of protesters burned tires Monday in Les Cayes, a town in the southwest.

"I didn't know there was a tropical storm coming," said Dunis Amilca, a 29-year-old resident of the oceanside Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil. "I'm just going to stay in my house and watch out for it."

Dominican authorities also issued storm warnings and advised small boats to remain in port, even on the north side of the island of 17 million people.