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A man stands in front of an uprooted oak tree on Louisiana Avenue as Hurricane Isaac makes land fall in New Orleans, Louisiana August 29, 2012.

SEAN GARDNER/REUTERS

The crowded Jamaican capital took a direct hit Wednesday from Hurricane Sandy as hundreds took refuge in emergency shelters and poor slum dwellers in Kingston's sprawling shantytowns hunkered down.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson cut short a visit to Canada and rushed home before the island's international airports closed and as police ordered a 48-hour curfew in major towns for safety and to deter looters.

The eye of Sandy made landfall seven kilometres south of Kingston – home to one million of Jamaica's 2.7 million inhabitants – at 3 p.m. local time, packing sustained winds of 130 km/h.

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The storm was moving north, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center, which warned that the situation in Jamaica was deteriorating and Sandy could strengthen further.

Jamaican officials had issued mandatory evacuation orders late Tuesday for at-risk communities in low-lying coastal areas.

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