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Hurricane Sandy Hits Cuba After Jamaica
Hurricane Sandy tore down power lines and trees as it pounded Jamaica, before heading for Cuba and the Bahamas.
The storm had developed from a Category One to Category Two hurricane when it made landfall just west of Santiago de Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 114mph.
The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami said Sandy was moving north-northeast at 15mph and was expected to keep its hurricane strength as it moved through the Bahamas.
"It is a big storm and it's going to grow in size after it leaves Cuba," said Michael Brennan, a hurricane forecaster at the NHC.
In Jamaica, schools and businesses were closed and authorities moved residents in low-lying, flood-prone areas into shelters amid steady rain and fierce winds.
Residents reported widespread power outages, flooded streets and some severely damaged homes.
One man was crushed to death by stones that fell from a hillside as he tried to get into his house in a rural village near Kingston, according to a police official.
Earlier on Wednesday, a woman in Haiti was swept away by a rushing river she was trying to cross.
Cruise ships changed their itineraries to avoid the storm, which made landfall five miles east of the capital and airports were closed.
Curfews were imposed on 80 communities in an attempt to prevent the looting which has followed previous storms.
Many people refused to evacuate their homes because they were fearful their possessions would be stolen.
Officers said suspected looters shot and wounded a police official as he led a group through a volatile section of West Kingston called Craig Town.
In some southern towns on Jamaica, a few crocodiles were caught in rushing floodwaters that carried them out of the mangrove thickets, into housing districts, local residents reported.
One large crocodile reportedly took up temporary residence in a family's front yard in the city of Portmore.
Sandy was expected to dump a total of 6in to 12in of rain as it made its way across parts of Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba.
It could possibly bring tropical storm conditions along the southeastern Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning.
Forecasters are also warning Sandy could merge with a strong autumn cold front and develop into a potentially historic storm along the mid-Atlantic and Northeast coast from Sunday through until Wednesday.