Tomas Becomes Hurricane, Threatens East Caribbean

"Newly born Hurricane Tomas barreled toward a cluster of eastern Caribbean islands on Saturday, tearing off roofs, damaging houses and downing power lines in its path.

In St. Lucia, fierce winds ripped off the roof of a hospital and a school in the eastern village of Dennery, legislator Edmund Estephane told state radio.

The government ordered two airports and all businesses closed and people called radio stations to admonish parents who were letting children play in the streets, where trees and power lines were falling.

""This is no joke,"" said calypso singer Nintus, one of the callers.

Organizers of the island's biggest Creole festival called off the event due to the storm, disappointing both would-be revelers and scores of vendors who traveled to the capital to sell vegetables, fruits and other provisions.

""All my preparations have gone down the drain,"" said vendor Theckla Darius, from the rural community of Fond Assau. ""It's been a lot of effort for nothing.""

Also under hurricane warning were St. Vincent and Martinique. Tomas had already knocked down power lines and damaged houses in Barbados as a tropical storm."
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