With the first big storm of the hurricane season approaching, tourists have been told to leave the Florida Keys island chain in the United States. Locals are also bracing themselves, with a state of emergency declared. “Just getting ready – just in case power goes out, so that after the storm is over we can get the generator up and running,” said one American woman, as she stocked up on fuel. It may have lost its hurricane status – having weakened to a tropical storm – but in the Cayman Islands authorities are taking no chances. Although the islands are expected to be spared a direct hit, Cuba is in the firing line – facing its first big storm in decades without ailing Fidel Castro at the helm.
Ernesto has already proved it has the power to kill. In Haiti, a woman died after huge waves from its storm surge swept ashore and destroyed her home. There is an unconfirmed report of another death. Forecasters now say Ernesto could regain hurricane strength. No-one needs any reminders of the perils of the Atlantic hurricane season. It is almost a year to the day since Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans. It killed around 1,500 people on the Gulf Coast.