Hurricane Gustav strengthens on path to western Cuba Major category 3 storm on track to hit US Gulf coast three years after Hurricane Katrina Associated Press guardian.co.uk, Saturday August 30 2008 13:00 BST Hurricane Gustav strengthened to a major category 3 storm as it approached western Cuba today on track to hit the US Gulf coast three years after Hurricane Katrina. The US National Hurricane Center in Miami called the storm dangerous and said it had reached the status of a major hurricane, the second one of this Atlantic season after Bertha in July. Gustav, which killed 71 people in the Caribbean, rolled over the Cayman Islands on Friday with fierce winds that tore down trees and power lines. It was expected to cross Cuba's cigar country Saturday and head into the Gulf of Mexico by Sunday. Gustav first struck Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the smaller eastern-most 'Sister Islands' in the chain. Storm surge and heavy rains flooded the streets. More than 1,100 people were in government shelters as high waves and heavy winds battered the chain of islands. No injuries were reported. "We're just trying to wait it out," said Juliana O'Connor-Connolly, who represents the islands in the Cayman legislature. She said about 40 people were riding out the storm in her farm on Cayman Brac, which at 65-feet elevation is safe from flooding but still vulnerable to winds that ripped out hundreds of fruit trees on the farm. By 5am EDT (0900 GMT) on Saturday, Gustav was centered about 255 miles east-southeast of the western tip of Cuba and moving north-west. Caymans authorities did not impose a curfew but urged people to remain indoors to avoid interfering with emergency workers. Hotels asked guests to leave and, after the airport closed, prepared to shelter those who remained. Chris Smith, of Frederick, Maryland, said his hotel handed out wrist bands marked with guests' names and room numbers so that "if something happens they can quickly identify us". The storm killed four people in a day-long march across the length of Jamaica, where it ripped off roofs and downed power lines. About 4,000 people were displaced from their homes, with about half of them relocated to shelters. The Jamaican prime minister, Bruce Golding, said the government sent helicopters Friday to rescue 31 people trapped by floods. At least 59 people died in Haiti and eight in the Dominican Republic. Gustav could strike the US Gulf coast anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Texas, but forecasters said there is a great chance that New Orleans will get hit by winds of at least tropical-storm force. As much as 80% of the Gulf of Mexico's oil and gas production could be shut down as a precaution if Gustav enters as a major storm, weather research firm Planalytics said. Oil companies have already evacuated hundreds of workers from offshore platforms. Retail gas prices rose Friday for the first time in 43 days as analysts warned that a direct hit on Gulf energy infrastructure could send pump prices hurtling toward $5 per gallon. Crude oil prices ended slightly lower in a volatile session as some traders feared supply disruptions and others bet the US government will release supplies from its petroleum reserve. Gustav was projected to hit Cuba's Isle of Youth, then cross the main island into the Gulf of Mexico by Sunday. Cuban state television announced that all buses and trains to and from Havana will be suspended until further notice. Along the US Gulf coast, most commemorations of the Katrina anniversary were canceled because of Gustav, but in New Orleans a horse-drawn carriage took the bodies of Katrina's last seven unclaimed victims to burial. The US president, George Bush, declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, a move that allows the federal government to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance in storm-affected areas. New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, said an evacuation order was likely, though not before Saturday, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it expects a "huge number" of Gulf Coast residents will be told to leave the region this weekend.