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Atleast 20 people were killed and another 31 missing on the small eastern Caribbean island of Dominican Republic after Tropical Storm Erika left a trail of destruction on Friday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the system was expected to move north across the island of Hispaniola, where the high mountains would weaken it to a tropical depression on Saturday and possibly cause it to dissipate entirely.

There’s a chance it could regain some strength off northern Cuba and people in Florida should still keep an eye on it and brace for heavy rain.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the entire state, which could begin seeing the effects of the system late Sunday and early Monday. Officials urged residents to prepare by filling vehicle gas tanks, stockpiling food and water, and determining whether they live in an evacuation zone.

Before the storm reaches Florida, it’s expected to affect much of the Caribbean.

The tropical storm warning in place includes islands from Hispaniola to the portions of the Bahamas. Cuba’s government issued a tropical storm watch for some provinces Friday morning.

Erika’s heavy rains set off floods and mudslides in Dominica, where at least 31 people have been reported missing.  The island’s airports remain closed, and authorities have not yet been able to reach some communities cut off by flooding and landslides.

The main river that cuts through the capital overflowed its banks and surging water crashed into the principal bridge that leads into the capital city of Roseau, whose roads were littered with fallen trees and light poles. Some streets were turned into fast-flowing rivers.

Erika drenched the Dominican Republic after it slid south of Puerto Rico, where it knocked out power to more than 200,000 people and caused more than $16 million in damage to crops including plantains, bananas and coffee.

Authorities are focusing on search-and-rescue efforts, with other countries in the region providing helicopters and other assistance.

Separately, in the Pacific Ocean, Hurricane Ignacio strengthened into a hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 90mph, centred south-east of Hilo in Hawaii, and moving north-west.

Tags : CaribbeanDominicaDominican RepublicFloridaMiamiNational Hurricane CenterPuerto RicoSanto DomingoTropical Storm Erika (2009)Virgin Islands
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