Haiti storm death toll to 54; up to 71 for region
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The death toll in the Caribbean from Hurricane Sandy rose on Wednesday and estimates of damage and destruction it caused grew larger as more complete assessments emerged from throughout the region.
Two new deaths were recorded in Haiti, bringing the total for the country to 54, said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, director of the country's Civil Protection agency. That means the toll for the Caribbean as a whole is now 71.
Haitian authorities were able to revise the death toll as rivers recede, allowing officials to travel through the storm-drenched southern peninsula. The death toll had been 52. Jean-Baptiste said Wednesday that one of the new deaths occurred during a mudslide and the other was a person who drowned trying to cross a rain-swollen river. There are still 21 people unaccounted for after the storm.
Hurricane Sandy drenched the country's south with more than 20 inches (500 millimeters) of rain in 24 hours. President Michel Martelly has declared a monthlong state of emergency.
In the Bahamas, the total cost of damage to private property and public infrastructure is expected to reach as high as $300 million, according to a report from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, a risk pool for 16 governments in the Caribbean.
That total would be higher than last year's Hurricane Irene, which caused about $250 million in damage to the island chain east of Florida.
The damage estimates do not include tourism losses, which are expected to be significant in the case of Sandy. Minister of Tourism Obediah Wilchcombe has said the country experienced thousands of cancellations some resorts were forced to compensate people who were stranded by the storm.
In Cuba, the government raised the number of homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy from 130,000 to 200,000.
State phone company Etecsa reported that some 1,400 telephone poles were knocked down by the storm, which blew across eastern Cuba. Phones and electricity were gradually being restored with the help of workers brought in from other regions.