CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Newly born Hurricane Tomas swept through a cluster of eastern Caribbean islands Saturday, damaging houses and downing power lines.

Authorities in St. Vincent were trying to confirm reports that three people died, including two men who might have been blown off a roof, said Jimmy Prince, emergency management spokesman.

Fierce winds tore roofs from nearly 100 homes and more than 400 people sought emergency shelter as the island plunged into darkness, he said.

“Many of them are workers who were unable to get off Mustique,” he said, referring to a tiny island just south of St. Vincent.

In St. Lucia, winds also ripped off the roof of a hospital, a school, a stadium and toppled a large concrete cross from the roof of a century-old church, government officials said.

Heavy rains also caused a landslide that blocked a main highway linking the capital to the island’s southern region.


Prime Minister Stephenson King said he was stranded in Barbados on an official trip and apologized to people on an island that reported a complete blackout.

“It hurts me to know that I am not around to give courage, strength and guidance at a time when we all must bond together and give support to each other,” he said in a statement.

Also under hurricane warning were St. Vincent and Martinique, where at least 20,000 people were without power. A cruise ship carrying nearly 2,000 tourists docked instead in Dominica.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Tomas strengthened Saturday night with 90-mph winds and was centered about 50 miles west-southwest of St. Lucia. It was moving west-northwest at 9 mph.


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