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Caribbean death toll rises
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The Caribbean death toll from Hurricane Sandy rose again sharply Saturday, even as the storm swirled away toward the U.S. East Coast. Officials said the hurricane system has cost at least 58 lives in addition to destroying or badly damaging thousands of homes. While Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas took direct hits from the storm, the majority of deaths and most extensive damage was in impoverished Haiti, where it has rained almost non-stop since Tuesday. The official death toll in Haiti stood at 44 Saturday, but authorities said that could still rise. “This is a disaster of major proportions,” Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said. “The whole south is under water.” Sandy left dozens of families homeless Wednesday when it hit Jamaica as a Category 1 hurricane. The storm hit eastern Cuba as a Category 2 hurricane early Thursday. Official news media said the storm caused 5,000 houses to at least partially collapse while 30,000 others lost roofs. In the Bahamas archipelago, it toppled light posts, flooded roads and ripped down tree branches. Flooding forced at least 100 families in southwestern Puerto Rico to seek shelter. Authorities in the Dominican Republic evacuated more than 18,100 people. Heavy rains and wind also damaged an estimated 3,500 homes.