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Sunday, August 19, 2007 : 0925 Hrs

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    Tourists in Caribbean jam airports to escape Hurricane Dean

    Santo Domingo, Aug. 19 (AP): Alarmed tourists jammed Caribbean airports for flights out of Hurricane Dean's path as the fierce storm that has claimed six lives began sweeping past the Dominican Republic and Haiti and threatened to engulf Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

    The storm's wrath could be felt yesterday in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, where a boy was pulled into the ocean and drowned while watching waves strike an oceanfront boulevard, the Dominican emergency operations centre reported.

    Rough surf churned by Dean destroyed five houses and damaged 15 others along the Dominican coast, emergency officials said.

    As dark clouds rolled in from the southeast, residents of the capital calmly ran errands at stores with fully stocked shelves, despite government advisories about heavy rains and possible flooding.

    "Nothing's going to happen here -- a lot of water but nothing else," said Pedro Alvajar, 61, as he sat in a doorway selling lottery tickets.

    But in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, which stand directly in the path of the Category 4 storm, fear gripped many islanders and tourists alike. Bracing for a direct hit today, Jamaica began evacuating people into more than 1,000 shelters nationwide.

    People jammed supermarkets and hardware stores in Kingston to stock up on canned food, bottled water, flashlights, batteries, lamps and plywood. In malls in the Jamaican capital, store-owners hammered plywood over windows.


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