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Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 05:01 GMT
Hurricane Lenny abates
The storm is creating surge floods and large battering waves

At least seven people are reported to have been killed by a hurricane which has been pounding the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean with strong winds and heavy rain.

It has now been downgraded to a tropical storm after weakening, but forecasters say there is still a risk from flash flooding and mudslides as the storm moves into open seas.

Reports from the region say that the hurricane's unusual trajectory left the region particularly vulnerable to damage.

Most sea defences in the area are built to protect against storms moving from east to west, but Hurricane Lenny swept through the Caribbean in the opposite direction.

The full extent of the damage on St Croix is not yet known
The storm washed away houses, uprooted trees and brought down power lines across a number of islands.

The hurricane has stalled near the islands of St Maarten and St Barthelemey, where it "wreaked havoc", according to the US National Weather Centre.

Lt General Dennis Richardson of St Maarten said the island was "in a very dangerous situation".

The storm's winds, which peaked at speeds of 240kph, dropped to 167kph as it passed over the island, but it is still causing considerable damage.

Sea surges have swamped half of the capital of Philipsburg and powerful waves have pounded the main port.

Torrential downpours on Anguilla have flooded the phone company headquarters and officials have warned the island might lose phone communications, as others already have.

The storm's wind speeds are predicted to weaken further but Lenny remains a dangerous category two storm.

Residents of Puerto Rico escaped the worst of Lenny
US President Bill Clinton has declared a state of emergency for the US Virgin Islands, allowing residents to apply for federal financial aid.

The final death toll from Hurricane Lenny is not likely to be known for a few days.

US Virgin Island officials have unconfirmed reports that four people died on St Croix, which sustained a direct hit on Wednesday.

Lenny has also caused havoc as far away as South America. On Tuesday, two fishermen drowned off Colombia's Caribbean peninsula, when rains destroyed half a coastal village, leaving 540 people homeless.

And a man in St Maarten died on Wednesday when the garden wall of his home collapsed onto him.

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See also:
18 Nov 99 |  Americas
Hurricane continues destructive path
18 Nov 99 |  Americas
In pictures: Hurricane Lenny
14 Oct 99 |  Sci/Tech
Hurricane force revealed
20 Oct 99 |  Americas
Action plan for storm disaster
28 Oct 98 |  World
Hurricanes and Typhoons: Nature's lethal weapons
08 Nov 99 |  Sci/Tech
Scientists predict storms beyond the horizon
16 Nov 99 |  Americas
Hurricane Lenny threatens Puerto Rico
19 Nov 99 |  Americas
Hurricane pounds Caribbean

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