Brief: Hurricane hits Jamaica

Maroon Staff

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Hurricane Sandy’s howling winds and pelting rains lashed precarious shantytowns, stranded travelers and downed power lines Wednesday as it roared across Jamaica on a course that would take it to Cuba and then possibly threaten Florida and the Bahamas.

Sandy’s death toll is at least two. An elderly man was killed in Jamaica when he was crushed by a boulder that rolled onto his clapboard house, police reported. Earlier Wednesday, a woman in Haiti was swept away by a rushing river she was trying to cross.

In some southern towns on Jamaica, a few crocodiles were caught in rushing floodwaters that carried them out of their homes in mangrove thickets, showing up in residential districts where electricity was knocked out, Jamaica’s environmental agency said. One big croc took up temporary residence in a family’s front yard in the city of Portmore.

By Wednesday evening, the hurricane’s eye had crossed Jamaica and emerged off its northern coast near the town of Port Antonio, meteorologists said, but rain and winds continued to pound the Caribbean island, which was dwarfed by the sprawling Sandy.

It was the first direct hit by the eye of a hurricane on Jamaica since Hurricane Gilbert 24 years ago. Fearful authorities closed the island’s international airports and police ordered 48-hour curfews in major towns to keep people off the streets and deter looting. Cruise ships changed their itineraries to avoid the storm, which made landfall five miles (8 kilometers) east of the capital, Kingston.