HAMILTON, Bermuda -- The most powerful hurricane to hit Bermuda in 50 years slammed into the British territory, unleashing deadly winds that split trees and swept trucks off roads. Four people were missing and feared dead as the storm roared northward into the Atlantic.
By Saturday morning, the hurricane's 120 mph winds had eased as Fabian pushed away from Bermuda. Officials were grappling with reports of widespread damage and injuries.
Two police officers and two civilians were swept into white-capped waters when winds blew their vehicles off a shattered causeway connecting Bermuda's main island to the airport, Police Commissioner Jonathan Smith said. Searches were suspended because of the storm surge but would resume Saturday.
Hospitals reported minor injuries. Many people said they had been hit by flying debris. Some reported falling on slippery roads.
The storm knocked out power in 25,000 homes, tore slate tiles from roofs, covered roads with debris. Many of the vacation spot's golf courses were in ruins.
"This storm is the most powerful one we've seen in years," said government spokesman John Burchall. "The surge and debris are making it incredibly difficult to do search and rescue operations."
Fabian tested the wealthy British territory's vaunted ability to withstand a fierce storm. The island chain requires newly built houses to withstand sustained winds of 110 mph. The developed territory also has many underground power and phone lines.
However, Bermuda had not seen a Category 3 hurricane like Fabian since 1953 when Hurricane Edna slammed into Bermuda with its 115 mph winds.
The satellite dish and instruments to measure wind speeds were ripped from their moorings and blown away at Bermuda's Weather Service.
By early Saturday, maximum sustained winds were at 115 mph and were expected to weaken as the storm moves north into the Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
Islanders bolted themselves inside homes or fled to hotels, some of which reported gushing leaks. Airports closed and all flights to Bermuda were canceled. It was unclear when the airport would reopen because part of the wall on the causeway going to the airport had been washed away.
"It's terrific to watch but it's still intimidating," said Susan Chandler, 52, from Manhattan, who watched Fabian from her rattling hotel windows.
About 160 people were moved out of the Sonesta Beach Hotel in the south, where 10-foot waves were crashing against the rocky coastline. Hundreds of others left their homes on the coast.
Tourist Robert O'Leary, 59, of Centerville, Nova Scotia, was in Bermuda visiting his pregnant daughter. "We'll call the baby Fabian, I guess," said O'Leary, who nervously passed the time sipping Goslings, a Bermuda rum.
By Friday afternoon, Fabian's eye had passed within 34 miles west of Bermuda's largest island, which is 21 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide.
The Bermuda Weather Service discontinued the hurricane warning but urged citizens to exercise caution until winds and seas subsided.
"We've come up with a Fabian cocktail for our guests," said Paul S. Tormey, manager of The Fairmont Hamilton Princess hotel , which had nearly 300 guests. "The drinks will have umbrellas turned inside out."
About 62,000 people live in the British territory, about 900 miles east of Charleston, S.C.
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