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Storm Fay Crosses Cuba, May Hit Florida as Hurricane (Update1)




Storm Fay Crosses Cuba, May Hit Florida as Hurricane (Update1) 

By Alex Morales and Dan Hart

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) — Tropical Storm Fay plowed across Cuba, drenching the Caribbean island on a northward course that’s forecast to take it to Florida, with the system strengthening into a hurricane on the way.

Fay killed four people in the Dominican Republic, the country’s Emergency Operations center said on its Web site. At least seven people were killed by the storm in Haiti, and dozens were missing after the truck they were in plunged into a river that was swollen by the rain, Agence France-Presse said.

Fay’s maximum sustained winds were 50 miles (85 kilometers) per hour shortly before 5 a.m. Miami time, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in anadvisory on its Web site. The storm was located over central Cuba, about 105 miles east-southeast of Havana and 155 miles south-southeast of Florida’s Key West, and heading north-northwest at 12 mph.

“The center of Fay should be emerging into the Florida Straits later this morning and be very near the Florida Keys tonight,” the center said. “Fay is forecast to be approaching hurricane strength in the Florida Keys and to become a hurricane before it reaches the Florida peninsula.”

Cuba’s government warned that the biggest danger associated with Fay was rain. The storm may bring as much as 12 inches (30 centimeters) to parts of the island, the U.S. center said.

“These rains could produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides,” forecasters at the Miami center said. “Heavy rains are expected to spread across South Florida today.”

Warning, Watch

A tropical-storm warning was in place for the Florida Keys, and for the coast of the state northward to Jupiter Inlet on the eastern shore and Bonita Beach in the west. The center also said a hurricane watch was in place for the Keys, from south of Ocean Reef to Key West. Monroe County, which includes Key West and most of the Keys, began evacuating visitors at 8 a.m. yesterday, the center said.

“If people are calling, we’re telling them there is a mandatory evacuation,” Joyce Smatts, general manager of the Pier House Resort in Key West, said in a telephone interview. The waterside hotel and conference complex is at the foot of Duval Street, the city’s main tourist thoroughfare. “We had a lot of checkouts,” she said.

Key West International Airport will close at about midmorning today, its manager, Peter Horton, said. The airport handles 30 inbound and 30 outbound flights daily, down from a peak of 100 per day during the winter season, he said.

Cruise ships operating out of the Port of Miami were docked on Aug. 16 for passenger disembarkation. The ships normally leave on Sundays for destinations in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Carnival Corp. haven’t changed cruise schedules, officials said.

Oil Platform Evacuations

Transocean Inc., the world’s largest offshore oil driller, evacuated 130 workers at four rigs in the Gulf of Mexico as a precaution, Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for the Houston-based company, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it evacuated about 360 non- essential staff from the eastern Gulf over the past two days. Production wasn’t affected, according to an e-mailed statement from Shell, Europe’s largest oil company by market value.

Brent crude for October settlement rose as much as $1.60, or 1.4 percent, to $114.15 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange. It was at $113 a barrel at 10:08 a.m. London time.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at[email protected]Dan Hart in Washington at[email protected]

Last Updated: August 18, 2008 06:29 EDT

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