Caibarin — Hurricane Irma battered central Cuba yesterday, knocking down power lines, uprooting trees and ripping off roofs as it headed towards Florida, authorities and witnesses said.
After leaving at least 19 people dead on its path across the Caribbean, Irma was “seriously” damaging the centre of the island with winds up to 256km per hour, Cuban state media said. Irma weakened slightly to Category 4 early yesterday after making landfall in Cuba, according to the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC).
There were no confirmed casualties in Cuba.
The state meteorological service INSMET reported waves of up to seven meters on the northern coast.
“It has now stopped raining, but all night there was a terrible wind” which ripped up trees, knocked down power lines and damaged roofs, Gisela Fernandez, a 42-year-old nurse in central Villa Clara province, told AFP. In the province’s main city Caibarien, an AFP reporter said deafening gusts of wind were sweeping the area and 6 250 people had been evacuated to state refuges or other peoples’ homes. Others were shut up in their houses.
A large part of the centre and east of the island was without power, television reports said.
The governor of the central Camaguey province, Isabel Gonzalez, speaking on national television, reported “major damage,” without giving further details.
Irma was expected to strike the Florida Keys late yesterday and today before moving inland.
“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida,” the NHC said in a public advisory.
Some 5.6 million people there faced orders to evacuate.
In Cuba, more than a million people were evacuated as a precaution, authorities said. — AFP