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Tropical Storm Elsa heads toward Florida after causing death, desctruction in Caribbean

The storm, once a hurricane, was forecast to strike the west coast of Florida on Tuesday.

Tropical Storm Elsa remained on a path for Florida Sunday after slamming the Caribbean and leaving three people dead and tens of thousands under evacuation orders, forecasters and officials said.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm, a downgraded version of the first hurricane of the Atlantic's 2021 season, could hit the west coast of the state Tuesday or Wednesday as it slowed down slightly in the Caribbean.

As of Sunday afternoon, Elsa was approaching eastern Cuba with 60 mph winds while moving to the northwest at 14 mph, forecasters said.

Roughly 70,000 people fled the country's southern region for relatives' homes, government shelters and caves that had been prepared for the emergency.

The storm was expected to weaken, then strengthen slightly after passing over Cuba and the Florida Straits on Monday, the National Hurricane Center said. Elsa was expected to hit the Florida Keys Tuesday.

Image: A passenger arrives at the airport as Hurricane Elsa moves towards south Florida, in Miami
A passenger arrives at terminal D of Miami International Airport on Friday after heavy rains, as then-Hurricane Elsa moved toward south Florida. CARLOS BARRIA / Reuters

On Saturday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 15 counties, including Miami-Dade, where part of a high-rise condominium tower collapsed nearly two weeks ago. Officials accelerated demolition plans for the section of the tower that's still standing amid fears that the storm could compromise a search and rescue effort.

"As soon as the preparation is ready, the site is secure and the team is ready to go, we will begin the demolition,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Sunday.

One death was reported in St. Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. In the Dominican Republic, a 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman died Saturday after walls collapsed on them in separate incidents, according to a statement from the Emergency Operations Center.

Widespread structural damage was reported in Barbados.

"This is a hurricane that has hit us for the first time in 66 years," Prime Minister Mia Mottley said Saturday. “There is no doubt this is urgent.”