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Miami (AFP) Oct 23, 2012
Hurricane warnings were issued Tuesday for Jamaica and parts of Cuba as Tropical Storm Sandy gained strength in the southern Caribbean.
Forecasters predicted that Sandy will hit Jamaica as a hurricane Wednesday before crossing eastern Cuba that night en route to the Bahamas by the weekend.
A tropical storm warning was issued for impoverished Haiti as well.
At 1800 GMT, the storm was about 275 miles (440 kilometers) south-southwest of Kingston, packing top sustained winds of 50 miles per hour and moving north-northeast at five miles per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
"Sandy is expected to produce total rainfall amounts of 15-30 centimeters (six to 12 inches) across Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba... especially in areas of mountainous terrain," the report said.
"These rains may produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides," the center warned.
The Bahamas issued a tropical storm watch for central islands.
Cuba warned residents of threatened eastern provinces to get ready for the bad weather.
Although the hurricane season runs from July 1 to the end of November, historically October is worse for Cuba.
In 2008, it was hit by three hurricanes that caused a total of $10 billion in damage and affected more than half a million homes.
But this year only Tropical Storm Isaac crossed through two Cuban provinces in late August. Damage was light, and the rain filled dams and reservoirs.
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