SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) – Tropical Storm Noel brought heavy rain to the western Caribbean Tuesday as it pushed through Cuba and edged closer to Florida. Floods and mudslides across the region have killed at least 22 people.

Forecasters projected the storm would emerge over water today near Cuba’s Cayo Coco resort area and head northeast toward the Bahamas. They also said a tropical storm watch might be issued for parts of southeastern Florida Tuesday.

The storm cut a destructive path across the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

At least six people died in Haiti, including two women who were washed away by flood waters near the city of Gantier and a child found dead in a slum in the capital, U.N. officials said.

Officials in the neighboring Dominican Republic, meanwhile, revised the death toll there downward to 16. The National Emergency Commission reported Monday that at least 20 had died as a result of the storm in that country, but on Tuesday, agency spokesman Luis Luna Paulino said they had miscalculated the earlier figure.

Almost 12,000 people were driven from their homes and nearly 3,000 homes were destroyed, while collapsed bridges and swollen rivers have isolated 36 towns, Luna said.

The dead included three people swept up by a fast-moving river in San Jose de Ocoa and three others buried in a mudslide in the port city of Haina, officials said.

In Haiti, about 2,000 people were evacuated from homes from the southern coastal city of Jacmel. Hundreds also were evacuated in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where the muddy water was so deep in some streets that people swam in it.

Rain was still pounding the two countries Tuesday even as the center of the storm moved away.

At 5 p.m. EDT, Noel was centered about 30 miles south-southwest of Camaguey, Cuba, and it was moving toward the west at about 8 mph. Maximum sustained winds were down to 40 mph, down from 60 mph earlier.

Florida was just outside the storm’s expected path, but forecasters said a tropical storm watch may be issued for southeast portions of the state if Noel shifts west or its wind field expands. A watch means tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours.

Forecasters had already issued warnings for rough surf for much of South Florida, including the Miami area, as waves were already pounding the region’s beaches.

But they said the storm’s rains would likely miss drought-stricken Georgia, Alabama and other states in the Southeast.

In Cuba, the government said about 1,000 homes had suffered damage, 2,000 people had been evacuated from low-lying areas, and schools were closed for several thousand students.

Bahamian authorities closed most government offices, and lines formed at grocery stores and gas stations in Nassau, the capital. Rain from the outer bands of the storm forced tourists to cover themselves in trash bags or huddle for shelter in doorways of the city’s colonial downtown.

Carl Smith, Bahamian disaster coordinator, said the archipelago’s power authority was considering temporarily shutting down the electrical system in various islands as a precautionary measure.

Associated Press writers Jonathan M. Katz in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Will Weissert in Havana, Jessica Robertson in Nassau, Bahamas and David McFadden in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

AP-ES-10-30-07 1838EDT

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