"What I've seen is a total disaster," Lenworth Blake, a member of the Jamaican Parliament representing the southwestern parish of St. Elizabeth, said in a radio interview. Blake estimated that 85 percent of the houses in the southeastern part of his parish had been severely damaged.
St. Elizabeth and the other western sections of Jamaica were hit harder than Kingston by Ivan, which skirted the southern coast before turning toward the Caymans. The western end of the island was still being battered by high waves, hurricane-strength winds and driving rains Sunday morning, when a hot sun had begun filtering through the remaining clouds hanging over the capital.
Children play in the ruins of a house destroyed by Hurricane Ivan outside Kingston, Jamaica. The storm killed 49 people in Grenada and Jamaica, then blasted the Cayman Islands. The Cuban government ordered the evacuation of 800,000 people from the western part of the island.
(Daniel Aguilar -- Reuters)
Photo Gallery: Hurricane Ivan ripped through Jamaica over the weekend. The class five storm is headed toward Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico.
Recipe for a Hurricane: The storm's powerful force stems from elements of weather that are always present, but only sometimes aligned.
While many Jamaicans were giving thanks that their island had been spared a direct hit, residents of the Caribbean Terrace neighborhood of Kingston returned to their homes late Saturday and Sunday and found barely imaginable scenes of devastation. The development of 78 bungalow homes sits directly on the seafront, not far from the airport in the Harbour View neighborhood. At least 10 of them, those closest to the sea, had been smashed into rubble by Ivan, which destroyed an eight-foot stone-and-concrete seawall before pulverizing them.
"Everything is gone," said Andre Kong, 45, as he stood in the smashed shell of the house where he was raised and stared through a door frame at a pile of debris, wood, mangled metal, sand and rocks where his bedroom had been. "I used to sleep here, mon," he said. "This is shocking."
A couch that had been in his living room sat upside down in the street about 150 yards away, near a twisted refrigerator, toys, tables and clothes that had also been washed out of houses by the storm's massive surges.
Kong said the property was not insured, and its loss would be a major financial blow to the family. He said they would not rebuild the house even though it had been in the family since 1969.
Kong is a government fisheries official who has extensively studied the sea, currents, tides and storm surges. "The sea is my life," he said. "But I just could not imagine that it could do this."
Staff writers Manuel Roig-Franzia in Miami Beach and Manny Fernandez in Key West contributed to this report.