Hurricane Sandy has swept through the Caribbean, killing at least 43 and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. As the storm advances on US shores, fears are mounting that it could merge with another weather system, creating a super-storm.
Sandy gathered speed and strength in the Caribbean Sea, tearing through the Bahamas at winds reaching up to 180 miles per hour. Cuba was hit hard by Sandy on Thursday, with at least 11 people killed and another 9 dead in Haiti.
One person was also killed in Jamaica by falling rocks after Sandy swept across the island on Wednesday.
Over 50,000 people fled their homes in Cuba as storm winds ripped roofs off buildings and tore down power lines. The US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was also hit, prompting the relocation of some prisoners to a more secure location.
Cuban authorities said that Sandy was the deadliest storm to strike the country since July 2005, when Hurricane Dennis killed 16 people and caused $2.4 billion in damage.
Sandy is due to strike the US on Friday afternoon, with experts raising concerns the storm could magnify in power and cause significant damage.
Forecasters said there is a possibility that Sandy could combine with a seasonal weather system, creating a hybrid storm that could ravage the East Coast of the US.
“The high degree of blocking from eastern North America across the entire Atlantic Basin is expected to allow this unusual merger to take place," forecasters at the US National Hurricane Center said.
Jeff Masters, a hurricane specialist with private forecaster Weather Underground wrote that Sandy could be a “billion dollar disaster” if it makes landfall along the Mid-Atlantic Coast.
"In this scenario, Sandy would be able to bring sustained winds near hurricane force over a wide stretch of heavily populated coast," he said.
With Halloween approaching in the US, the media has branded the hybrid weather system ‘Frankenstorm.’
Washington has urged residents of the East Coast to monitor forecasts and heed weather warnings from local authorities in the days ahead.