Hurricane Ivan killed at least 20 people as it laid waste to the tiny spice island of Grenada, officials said on Wednesday as the storm swept through the Caribbean heading west. Ivan, a dangerous Category 4 storm on a five-step scale of hurricane intensity, slammed into Grenada, a volcanic island of 90,000 people in the southeastern Caribbean on Tuesday, flattening or badly damaging homes and cutting power. "Our diplomats are reporting that there are 20 confirmed deaths," said a State Department official in Washington. The airport in the former British colony was closed and authorities were trying to open it for emergency flights, the official said. With the island cut off, the extent of the damage began to emerge only on Wednesday. A videotape shot from a British naval helicopter after the hurricane struck widespread destruction with buildings flattened, roofs ripped off houses and major flooding. Grenada's capital, St. George's, was devastated. The island's emergency operations center was destroyed and the main hospital damaged. "I can estimate about 85 percent devastation. All our major communication networks are down except the telephone service which is partially up and running," said Kenrick Fullerton, a member of parliament on the island, informs Reuter. According to the Herald Sun, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) confirmed three deaths on the tiny island of Grenada, which remained without power or telephone service. Television in the nearby island of Trinidad said at least nine people were killed in Grenada, while one woman was reportedly killed when a tree fell on her on Trinidad's sister island Tobago. Grenada suffered "incalculable damage" as the storm flattened the house of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and the island's emergency management center, said Terry Ally, spokesman for Barbados-based CDERA. The "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 220km/h, was moving at 26km/h per hour toward the west-northwest, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre said at 4am AEST Thursday. Grenada's prime minister said the island has suffered devastating damage after the storm made a direct hit Tuesday. The storm pounded concrete homes into rubble and hurled the country's landmark red zinc roofs through the air. The prime minister described the damage as "beyond any imagination." He added that "it would be a surprise" if there aren't more deaths discovered. Ivan is the most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean in 14 years. It's expected to reach Jamaica by late Thursday before heading on to Haiti. The storm could reach Cuba by Friday and has the potential to follow a path similar to Frances. Both storms formed as tropical storms near Cape Verde off the African coast, an area known as a breeding ground for storms that become big hurricanes, publishes the Omaha Channel.
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