PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – At least 30 people are feared to have died aboard a bus that tried to cross a river flooded by Tropical Storm Fay, a Haitian lawmaker said Monday.
A bus carrying 43 people was swept away trying to cross the Riviere Glace on Haiti's southern peninsula on Sunday, Deputy Arcluche Louis-Juene told Radio Vision 2000.
"Only 13 people have been found," said Louis-Juene, who represents the Grand Anse department where the accident happened.
U.N. peacekeepers could not immediately confirm the accident and Haitian civil protection officials could not be reached early Monday.
Tropical Storm Fay spared Cuba as it sped across the island's Bay of Pigs and took aim at Florida on Monday. Forecasters said it could likely reach hurricane strength before hitting the U.S. mainland.
Fay appeared to do minimal damage to Cuba despite torrential rain southeast of the capital. Cuban authorities evacuated dozens of low-lying communities, but their worst fears were not realized — a direct hit on Old Havana's dilapidated buildings.
Cubans woke to nothing more than clouds and drizzle in the capital.
Jose Rubiera, Cuba's chief meteorologist, said Fay slammed into Cuba near the little-populated Peninsula de Zapata close to the Bay of Pigs, and sped across the island. He expected it to be out to sea within a few hours, where he said it could likely move to hurricane strength and threaten Florida.
Cuban state media reported little damage or major flooding so far, but authorities in four provinces evacuated nearly 5,000 residents and pulled fishing boats from the water. Officials also set up temporary shelters and food distribution centers.
In central Cienfuegos province, officials suspended traditional carnival celebrations. State media said authorities were ready to "protect" the 24,000 foreign tourists in the famous beach resort of Varadero, but provided no more details.
Winds damaged the roofs of some homes in little-populated areas and water accumulated on roads and highways.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Fay is expected to dump up to 8 inches of rain on Cuba, with 12 inches in isolated cases. It warned that this much rain could produce flash floods and mudslides.
In the city of Niquero, near the southern coast and one of the hardest-hit areas, authorities converted a hotel into a shelter for evacuees.
"It's raining intensely, but the wind comes and goes," said a receptionist at the Hotel Niquero, who said he was not authorized to have his name appear in the foreign press.
Officials also suspended some ferry service on Isla de la Juventud, an island off Cuba's southern coast. In the southeastern province of Granma, a banana plantation sustained minor flooding and storm winds damaged some homes, state media reported.
At 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the center of Tropical Storm Fay was located over the northern coast of western Cuba just northeast of Varadero, or about 80 miles east of Havana and about 100 miles southeast of Key West, Florida.
Fay had maximum winds of 60 mph and was moving northwest near 12 mph. It was expected to continue in that direction for the next 24 hours, with a turn to the north on Tuesday. Fay's center was expected to emerge into the Florida Straits in the next few hours and could be "very near" the Keys by Monday night, the Hurricane Center said.
Florida has declared a state of emergency and authorities in the Florida Keys closed schools, opened shelters and urged visitors to leave. Residents and tourists, however, seemed in no hurry to evacuate.
Traffic leaving Key West and the Lower Keys on Sunday afternoon was light but steady as the sky darkened with storm clouds and the National Weather Service issued watches and warnings.
Fay, the sixth storm of the 2008 Atlantic season, was slowing down Sunday night and moving erratically, but forecasters still expected it to strengthen slowly to a hurricane.
Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain was briefed Fay and said he was optimistic that local and federal officials will work together if the storm strikes.
"The good news is, obviously, no state is better prepared or organized to deal with whatever comes this way than the state of Florida," McCain told reporters after his briefing.