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Tropical Storm Erika: rescue crews search for missing and injured

Published 28/08/2015

Tropical Storm Erika approaches an island in Puerto Rico
Tropical Storm Erika approaches an island in Puerto Rico

Rescue crews fanned across Dominica to search for missing and injured people after Tropical Storm Erika pummelled the eastern Caribbean island, unleashing landslides and killing at least four people.

Police said another 20 people have been reported missing.

The storm, which forecasters said could reach Florida as a hurricane on Monday, dumped 15 inches (38 centimetres) of rain on the small island as it spun west toward Puerto Rico.

An elderly blind man and two children were killed when a mudslide crashed into their home in the southeast of the island, said Police Chief Daniel Carbon. Another man was found dead near his home in the capital of Roseau after a mudslide.

"Erika has really, really visited us with a vengeance," Assistance Police Superintendent Claude Weekes said. "There are many fallen rocks and trees, and water. It's really chaotic."

He said crews were trying to reach isolated communities via boat because many roads and bridges were impassable.

"There are people missing in different parts of the island."

Erika was expected to move near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and be near or just north of the Dominican Republic today as it heads toward Florida early next week, possibly as a hurricane.

As the storm entered the Caribbean, it did the heaviest damage to Dominica, an island of about 72,000 people of lush forests and steep terrain. Authorities were still conducting a full damage assessment after rivers surged over their banks and walls of mud surged into homes.

About 80% of the island was without electricity, and water supply was cut off, authorities said. Trees and light poles were strewn across streets as water rushed over parked cars and ripped the scaffolding off some buildings. The main airport was closed due to flooding, with water rushing over at least one small plane.

The main river that cuts through the capital overflowed its banks and surging water crashed into the principal bridge that leads into Roseau.

"The capital city is a wreck," policewoman Teesha Alfred said. "It is a sight to behold. It's a disaster."

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