The name of the group soliciting help for hurricane victims in the Caribbean island Dominica was misspelled in yesterday's Washington Post. The organization is the Dominica Association. It does not administer relief efforts for the Dominican Republic, also hit by Hurricane David.
More than 600 persons in the Dominican Republic have been killed by Hurricane David, most of them in floods touched off by the deadly storm, authorities there said yesterday.
Officials said the death toll from the storm throughout the Caribbean is above 650, and they feared the final death toll could be in the thousands.
The hurricane battered the Dominican Republic Friday and Saturday and sliced through the Bahamas yesterday, causing widespread destruction and casualties as it headed toward the southeast coast of Florida.
The death toll from Hurricane David rose unexpectedly with the report of about 400 deaths in Villa de Ocoa, 18 miles west of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, where townspeople had taken refuge in a crowded church that was flooded.
The U.S. National Weather Service extended a hurricane warning from Marathon in the Florida keys to Cape Canaveral. David was expected to hit the state by dawn today.
High winds and rains uprooted trees and forced thousands to seek refuge in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, yesterday evening. At 2 a.m. today, the center of the storm was located about 85 miles southeast of Miami, moving northwest at 12 to 15 mph.
With the death toll over 650, David has become one of the deadliest Atlantic storms of the century and the worst since Hurricane Fifi killed 2,000 in 1974. At midnight David's wind velocity was reportedly 105 mph.
On Wednesday, 22 persons on the small Caribbean island of Dominica were killed, and 16 were reported killed in Puerto Rico on Friday. There were no immediate reports of deaths in the Bahamas.
In Villa de Ocoa, officials said about 480 persons sought shelter Friday from David's 150 mph winds in a church. As they huddled inside, the torrential rains caused the Yaque River to overflow.
"The waters kept rising until everything was flooded and dozens of persons drowned," the Associated Press quoted a local official as saying. "The few who saved themselves had to climb to the top of the church steeple."
Officials said 80 persons escaped.
President Antonio Guzman and Civil Defense Director Pedro Justiniano Polanco flew to Ocoa Sunday morning to get a first-hand look at the destruction.
In San Cristobal, 20 miles west of Santo Domingo, 22 persons who had sought shelter inside a church were killed when the roof collapsed, government officials said. They said there were 36 other confirmed fatalities throughout the country, and an additional 150 or more persons were believed to have been killed. More than 150,000 were reported homeless.
Authorities in the Dominican Republic said the worst damage appeared to be in rural areas.
"At first we thought the capital city was going to be the worst hit, because that's where the hurricane hit," Vice President Jacobo Majluta told United Press International.
"There are places that we haven't been able to get to yet, places that are completely surrounded by water, or where the roads have been cut," Majluta said.
"Nobody can calculate the dangers from this, but it must be in the bilions of dollars," the vice president said."And the loss in terms of human life is also incalcuable at this moment."
Majluta said the death toll might have been more if authorities had not forced residents of Santo Domingo's slums to leave their ramshackle homes.
"We had to do it at gunpoint because many didn't want to go," he said.
Troops in the Dominican Republic enforced a dusk-to-dawn curfew to discourage looting by hungry civilians. Mujlta said the most urgent need is food.
"Hunger is beginning to make itself felt," he said. "We cannot possibly feed the capital.We need help."
President Guzman declared a state of disaster and asked for international aid from the Orginization of American States, the United Nations, the United States and Venezuela.
A spokesman for the State Department's Agency for International Development said the United States was airlifting aid to the Dominican Republic and to Dominica. He noted that relief efforts to Dominica were hampered by the appearance of a second major storm, Hurricane Frederic. which was following a path slightly north of the course followed by David.
A team of U.S. doctors, engineers and communications specialists sent to Dominica had to be withdrawn to Barbados yesterday because of Frederic's high winds, the spokesman said.
Frederic veered to the north, bypassing Dominica, and the team was able to return, the spokesman said.
The U.S. government has set aside $500,000 in aid to Dominica and rescue workers prepared to provide food, water, sanitation and medical assistance. An AID team was meeting yesterday to assess reports from the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, the spokesman said, and $25,000 was made available immediately for the relief effort in the Dominican Republic.
Jean Finucane, president of the local Dominican Association, said last night the group is soliciting donations to defray the travel expenses of three volunteer physicians who have already gone to the island.
She said food and the services of additional ham radio operators are also needed. Contributions may be sent, according to Finucane, to the Dominican Disaster Fund, c/o All Souls Church, 16th and Harvard Streets N.W.