Hurricane Paloma 'extremely dangerous' near Cayman Islands
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A rare late-season hurricane battered the British Cayman Islands then gathered strength as it headed for Cuba, reaching the level of a category 4 storm, according to the US national hurricane centre.
GEORGE TOWN - Hurricane Paloma pounded the wealthy British Caribbean territory of the Cayman Islands on Friday after strengthening into a dangerously powerful storm, and also posed a serious threat to storm-battered
Businesses, schools and government offices closed down in the
Paloma gathered power menacingly fast as it neared Grand
"I have been through this so many times that a Category 2 or 3 doesn't really bother me anymore. Anything less than a Hurricane Ivan and I am not worried at all," said Paul Aiken, a Cayman businessman, referring to a ferocious 2004 hurricane that caused extensive damage in the territory.
Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 when it came ashore near
It posed no threat to
The hurricane was expected to reach
"It's a bad dream," said store worker Ofelia Hernandez in
The damage has come at a delicate time for
Cuban officials said they had evacuated at least 85,000 boarding school students on Friday and would soon begin moving people from flood-prone areas.
By 10 p.m. EST (0300 GMT Saturday), Paloma was about 25 miles (40 km) southeast of the eastern end of Grand Cayman and moving north-northeast near 7 mph (11 kph), the Miami-based hurricane center said.
It could yet strengthen a little as it swept by Little Cayman and Cayman Brac islands but would soon encounter environmental conditions that should cause it to weaken before it slammed into
Rainfall totaling up to 15 inches (38 cm) was expected over parts of the
The storm forced the postponement of a national festival known as Pirates Week, a major tourist draw. Many tourists already had cut short their vacations to evacuate.
"We're going to Cancun where it's sunny," said Steve Keith, a visitor who was married in
Paloma came in the last month of what experts correctly predicted would be a busier than normal six-month storm season.
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