Tropical Storm Lili Takes Aim at Haiti; Worries Gitmo

Published September 26, 2002

| Associated Press

Tropical Storm Lili veered away from Haiti late Wednesday as it made its way toward Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where U.S. military officials are holding nearly 600 suspected terrorists.

At 8 p.m. Lili was about 300 miles southeast of the Dominican Republic's capital, Santo Domingo, and was moving west-northwest at 7 mph approaching western Haiti.

Although it made a slight shift away from the mainland, Lili began to drench Haiti with lashing rains.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for southern Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola. A tropical storm watch was expected for eastern Jamaica, to the west, later Wednesday.

Maximum winds were 45 mph and little change was expected in the next 24 hours. But officials in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba were preparing for flash floods and wind gusts.

"It's carrying a lot of thunderstorms," said Michael Formosa, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. "They can get torrential flooding in the rivers and mudslides."

In 1994, Tropical Storm Gordon killed at least 829 Haitians.

Lili could reach Guantanamo Bay Naval Base late Friday. The storm could carry enough winds and rains to warrant moving the 598 detainees to a secure location away from their seaside cells, U.S. military officials said.

The detainees, accused of links to the fallen Taliban regime of Afghanistan or al-Qaida terrorist network, are being held in trailor-like cells about 545 yards from the Caribbean.

On Wednesday, thunderstorms and wind gusts buffeted the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, in addition to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

On Tuesday, Lili caused mud to break away from a rain-soaked hillside in St. Vincent and slam into the bedroom of 27-year-old Charmine Toney.

Toney and three of her children were crushed to death when the mudslide toppled a concrete wall. Toney's 2-year-old daughter survived.

Lili reached the Caribbean as a tropical depression Monday and intensified, damaging 400 homes in Barbados with winds of 60 mph. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 42 houses, two schools and a police station were damaged.

On the U.S. Gulf Coast, meanwhile, Tropical Storm Isidore dumped rain from 250 miles offshore, raising fears of flooding and chasing tourists and residents inland. The sprawling storm, packing 60-mph winds, was expected to come ashore along Louisiana's swampy shoreline early Thursday.

At least two people were killed when Isidore whipped through the Yucatan as a hurricane. A security guard was electrocuted because of flooding at an airport and an 8-year-old boy was swept away by a swollen river.

Also Wednesday, Tropical Storm Julio formed off Mexico Pacific coast and lashed the resort city of Acapulco with heavy rains, triggering flash-flooding that damaged or completely destroyed 100 homes in Acapulco and in the beachfront community of Zihuatanejo, 125 miles to the northwest, civil authorities said in a statement.

Mexico issued a tropical storm warning from Zihuatanejo to Punta San Telmo and declared a tropical storm watch from Punta San Telmo north to Manzanillo, another resort city.

Forecasters, meanwhile, upgraded Tropical Storm Kyle to a hurricane, becoming the season's third. The storm, 590 miles southeast of Bermuda, and wasn't expected to pose any immediate threats to land.

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