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Official: At least 5 dead on St. Lucia in wake of Tomas

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The death toll may rise, officials said
  • NEW: Popular tourist area isolated by landslides
  • NEW: Widespread damage reported on St. Lucia

Miami, Florida (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Tomas killed at least five people on the island of St. Lucia, and the death toll may rise, an emergency official said Tuesday.

At least two people are missing, said Kirby Allain, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Organization. The storm hit St. Lucia as a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday morning and caused major damage by the time its winds subsided Monday night, he said.

The five people died in a landslide when part of a mountain crashed down, crossed a hill and smashed into the Livity Arts Studio, crushing the family that was inside, Allain said. Tourists often stopped by the studio when visiting the island, he said.

Several landslides isolated the community of Soufriere, a spot popular with tourists on the island's southwest coast, he said.

Video: Tomas hits the Caribbean
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An aerial tour of the island on Monday revealed widespread damage, he said. Roads into one community were blocked, leaving its residents accessible only by boat.

"It's not a pretty sight," Allain said.

Tomas also caused damage on St. Vincent, where two people were injured when they attempted to fix roof damage during the storm, officials said. The storm sent some 1,000 people into shelters, said Michelle Forbes, acting director of National Emergency Management.

Since striking the islands, Tomas emerged into the Caribbean Sea and weakened into a tropical storm. However, it was re-intensifying early Tuesday, and forecasters said it was expected to strengthen further over the next couple of days.

As of 5 a.m. ET, the center of Tomas was about 355 miles (570 kilometers) south of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and about 445 miles (715 kilometers) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. It was moving west at 12 mph (19 kph), but was expected to turn west-northwest and then northwest over the next 48 hours, said the Miami, Florida-based National Hurricane Center.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) with higher gusts, forecasters said. "Additional slow strengthening is forecast," the Hurricane Center said.

No coastal watches or warnings were in effect associated with Tomas. But the Hurricane Center has urged residents of Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti to keep an eye on the storm. Tracking maps show Tomas approaching Haiti as a Category 1 hurricane early Saturday, but the eastern tip of Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are all in the cone of uncertainty.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles from Tomas' center, forecasters said.

November hurricanes are rare, said CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider. However, "the month isn't always hurricane-free," she wrote on HLN's "Morning Express' blog. "Two fairly recent November hurricanes include Hurricane Lenny in 1999 and Hurricane Michelle in 2001."

The Atlantic hurricane season ends November 30.

CNN's Mark Bixler and CNN Radio's Matt Cherry contributed to this report.

 
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