Hurricane Elsa threatens Caribbean

Hurricane Elsa churned through the Caribbean Friday, bringing powerful winds and the potential for storm surges and heavy rain.

The category 1 storm packed maximum sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour  as it moved northwest near St Vincent and the Grenadines in the eastern Caribbean around midday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The center said Elsa could bring a tidal surge of as much as three feet above normal in the Windward Islands — the far eastern chain that includes Barbados and St. Lucia — and up to four feet further west on the southern coast of Hispaniola, which is made of up Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Rainfall, storm surges and strong winds from Elsa could affect the Florida Keys and parts of the Florida peninsula early next week but this depends on how the storm behaves this weekend when it hits large Caribbean islands, the NHC said.

Hurricane-related weather would be bad news for the Florida town of Surfside, near Miami, as it tries to dig out a collapsed condo building in search of survivors and bodies.

Elsa is forecast to move near the southern coast of Hispaniola on Saturday and Haitian authorities expressed worry Friday that they lack emergency supplies like food and water.

A good part of the emergency resources the government did have were used in another crisis: the evacuation of thousands of people in Port-au-Prince because of raging gang violence.

Many of these people are staying in gyms, schools or other public buildings and some of the supplies that had been earmarked for the hurricane season have been used on these evacuees, said Jerry Chandler, director of the Haitian civil protection agency.

As the hurricane approached, authorities declared a weather alert Friday.

Authorities want to ship emergency supplies to the southern coast, which is most threatened. But heavily armed gangs control part of the only road leading from the capital to the south and they do not let everything through.

To reach these threatened areas, Chandler said, “we have to go through red zones,” referring to gang-held territory.

In 2016 Hurricane Matthew killed more than 500 people in southern Haiti and caused nearly $2 billion in damage.

By Sunday, Elsa is forecast to move near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba, the US center said.

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