Latin America & Caribbean

Tropical Storm Erika kills at least 20 in Dominica

Media captionTropical storm Erika has hit the eastern Caribbean bringing floods and landslides. Matt Taylor has the latest forecast.

A tropical storm heading across the Caribbean has killed at least 20 people on the island of Dominica, with dozens more missing.

Tropical Storm Erika caused floods and mudslides that have set the country back 20 years, its prime minister said.

Erika later hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti with high winds and heavy rain but experts said it was weakening.

A state of emergency has been declared in the US state of Florida, where the storm is expected on Sunday.

Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a televised address late on Friday that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads had been destroyed.

Media captionTropical Storm Erika has brought heavy rain and flooding to the eastern Caribbean and there's more to come. Darren Bett reports.

He said: "It is with heavy heart that I address you, you can well imagine the hell that it has been for me since I heard of the passing of Tropical Storm Erika and the damage it has done to our dear people and beloved country. But we all have to pull ourselves together.

"The extent of the devastation is monumental. We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica."

Erika dumped 38cm (15in) of rain on the mountainous island.

Mr Skerrit asked residents to share their resources as foreign aid trickled in.

"This is a period of national tragedy,'' he said.

"Floods swamped villages, destroyed homes and wiped out roads. Some communities are no longer recognisable."

At least 31 people on the island of 72,000 people have been reported missing, according to officials with the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency.

Island resident Shirley James said electricity and water supplies were gradually being restored but shops were still closed.

"We could see the utter devastation as we made our way through river debris, rockslides and landslides on the way to collect water," she said.

"Driving into town is now possible but not advisable."

Image caption A church collapsed in the centre of the capital, Roseau
Image caption About 80% of Dominica was without power and the water supply was cut off
Image caption The destruction was "monumental", said the prime minister
Image caption Dozens of people are missing

Other Caribbean nations have issued tropical storm warnings.

In Puerto Rico, Erika knocked out power to at least 150 people. It caused more than $16m (£10m) of damage to crops including plantain, bananas and coffee, AP reported.

Image caption The storm has moved from Dominica to Haiti

The US National Hurricane Center said the system had weakened as it moved north across the island of Hispaniola - shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic - on Saturday.

However, it said there was a small chance it could strengthen again as it approached Florida late Sunday.

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency as a precaution with officials urging people to prepare by stockpiling food and water and fuelling their vehicles.

Separately, in the Pacific Ocean, Hurricane Ignacio strengthened into a hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 90mph, centred south-east of Hilo in Hawaii, and moving north-west.

Image caption Florida residents have been told to prepare

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