Storm kills 20 on island of Dominica

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Tropical Storm Erika began to lose steam Friday over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but it caused a trail of destruction that killed at least 20 people and left another 31 missing on the small eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, authorities said.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a televised address late Friday that the island had been set back 20 years in the damage inflicted by the storm.

"The extent of the devastation is monumental. It is far worse than expected," he said, adding that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads have been destroyed. "We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica."

Tropical Storm Erika dumped 15 inches of rain on the mountainous island before it cut Friday into Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it toppled trees and power lines.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the system was expected to move north across the island of Hispaniola, where the high mountains would weaken it to a tropical depression on Saturday and possibly cause it to dissipate entirely.

There's a chance it could regain some strength off northern Cuba and people in Florida should still keep an eye on it and brace for heavy rain, said John Cagialosi, a hurricane specialist at the center. "This is a potentially heavy rain event for a large part of the state," he said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the entire state, which could begin seeing the effects of the system late Sunday and early Monday.