PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) — Tropical Storm Gustav stalled over Haiti on Wednesday, lashing the impoverished country with heavy rain after striking it with hurricane force and killing 13 people.
The US National Hurricane Center warned that Gustav could regain hurricane strength on Thursday as it passes between Jamaica and the southeastern coast of Cuba, and oil prices rose on fears that the storm could strike installations in the Gulf of Mexico.
The US southern coastal state of Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal activated a storm crisis team and vowed to lead advance preparation efforts, after the city of New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"As long as there is a chance that we'll be in this storm, I'll be here in Louisiana," said Jindal, warning he may miss next week's Republican National Convention to nominate John McCain as the party's candidate for the White House.
"I'm going to make sure I'm here personally to lead the preparation efforts and if necessary, any recovery efforts necessary after the fact," he told CNN.
The storm was blowing winds of 60 miles per hour (95 kilometers) as it stalled over Haiti about 90 miles (150 km) west of Port-au-Prince, the center said in its latest report.
Gustav made landfall in Haiti Tuesday as a Category One hurricane -- the lowest on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale.
At least five people died and seven were injured in southeast Haiti as roofs flew off houses and electricity pylons were ripped away by violent winds, authorities said late Tuesday.
In the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, eight people were killed in a mudslide caused by the storm.
All the victims were members of the same family, and had just returned to their home after evacuating two weeks ago, believing it safe after Tropical Storm Fay earlier this month, officials said.
Fay pummelled the Caribbean and left at least 47 people dead or missing, most of them in Haiti. The storm killed 11 more people in Florida.
Gustav was expected to drop six to 12 inches of rain over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the NHC said, warning that the rains were likely to "produce life threatening flash floods and mud slides."
World oil prices rallied as Gustav remained a threat to US energy installations in the Gulf of Mexico despite being downgraded from hurricane status, analysts said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in October, gained 91 cents to 117.18 dollars per barrel in electronic deals.
London's Brent North Sea crude for October won 68 cents to 115.31.
"Oil markets are keeping a nervous eye on ... Gustav, with forecasts showing it may move into the Gulf of Mexico," said David Moore, a Sydney-based commodity analyst with Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Looking ahead to the possibility of a hurricane striking the Gulf of Mexico this weekend, Shell said in a statement that it had begun "evacuating personnel not essential to producing and drilling operations in the Gulf."
Around 300 people were to be brought ashore Wednesday, with no impact on production, it said.
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