KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Work crews in soaked Jamaica cleared debris and downed power lines left in Hurricane Sandy’s wake while trying to restore electricity to more than half of the Caribbean country Thursday.
Curfews were lifted and international airports reopened under cloudy skies, which unleashed occasional downpours. People in hard-hit shantytowns struggled to repair battered homes after sheet metal roofs blew off.
Authorities said Sandy didn’t cause as much damage as they initially feared when it crossed the island Wednesday as a Category 1 hurricane. Still, the full extent of damage was unknown in Jamaica, where some major roads were still impassable. It would likely be days before life in many residential areas returned to normal.
Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was crushed by a boulder. In Haiti, officials said there were nine deaths, including a man and two women who died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti.
In Jamaica, about 70 percent of the island lost power during the storm and many towns and cities were left without water service. Schools in the capital of Kingston and eastern parishes were closed until next week.
The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association said resorts in Montego Bay and Negril sustained no major damage. North coast cruise ship terminals reopened to vessels.
In the impoverished Kingston community of Maverley, Eliter Barkley swept up tree branches, leaves and pieces of metal roofing scattered outside the tiny rum bar where she and her relatives spent Wednesday night after Sandy destroyed their shack.
Barkley said she and her sister were trying to calm their terrified children when Sandy ripped most of the corrugated metal off their small home’s roof shortly after it made landfall with sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph) about five miles east of Kingston. Minutes later, a tree fell on part of the house, sending the entire family screaming into the street.
“The front and the side got mashed up good. We just ran here in the storm all wet,” Barkley said outside the Uptown Inn bar, where about a dozen adults and children huddled together until morning.
In Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, where many people still live in tents and other temporary shelters since losing their homes in the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake, entire streets gave way to rushing waters. Many people carried belongings on their heads and in suitcases.
Rose Ducast, a 28-year-old mother of three, said she would stay in her tarp-constructed home despite offers from foreign aid groups for shelter. The structure was leaking Thursday and her belongings were wet, but she said evacuation shelters were “unlivable.”
It was wet and uncomfortable for Mariefrance Augustin, a resident of the Cite Soleil shantytown, where Sandy caused flooding just as Tropical Storm Isaac did when it passed over southern Haiti two months ago.
“Everything I own is wet and in the mud,” said Augustin, a 32-year-old unemployed mother of a 3-year-old.
In Jamaica, all of St. Thomas, Portland and St. Ann parishes in eastern Jamaica lost power during the storm, said Winsome Callum, spokeswoman for the islands’ electricity provider, Jamaica Public Service Ltd. Numerous customers in Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine also lost service.
The storm’s aftermath may be most difficult for the island’s farmers. The agriculture ministry said early reports estimate more than half the island’s banana sector was damaged.
After an aerial survey of lush Portland parish, Parliament member Daryl Vaz said there was extensive roof damage to hundreds of buildings and the rural area’s cultivated fields were devastated.
“There is no banana tree standing and all crops have been wiped out,” Vaz said, adding that the government should declare the rural eastern parish a disaster area.
Associated Press writer Trenton Daniel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.
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