Category 2 hurricane hits Cuba

2012-10-25 09:14
A man balances a child and umbrella on his bike as it rains during the approach of Hurricane Sandy in Manzanillo, Cuba. (Franklin Reyes, AP)

A man balances a child and umbrella on his bike as it rains during the approach of Hurricane Sandy in Manzanillo, Cuba. (Franklin Reyes, AP)

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Havana - Hurricane Sandy became a "strong" category two hurricane as it slammed into Cuba on Thursday, US forecasters said, hours after the storm battered Jamaica, forcing hundreds to seek emergency shelter.

The US-based National Hurricane Centre said the storm was packing winds of up to 175km/h as it made landfall at around 0525 GMT. The forecasters said it could strengthen further in the coming hours.

The hurricane ploughed across Jamaica on Wednesday, reportedly killing one person and forcing more than a thousand to seek shelter as it downed power lines and dropped heavy rains on the shantytowns around the capital Kingston.

Local paper The Gleaner said the storm had claimed its first victim - a 74-year-old man who was killed when a boulder rolled onto a house.

The country's electricity provider meanwhile said around 70% of its customers were without power due to the high winds and torrential rain.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management said more than 1 064 people had moved into emergency shelters across Jamaica, according to The Gleaner, and police ordered a 48-hour curfew to deter looting.

Guantanamo affected

As heavy rain doused Cuba on Wednesday, around 1 700 people were evacuated in the country's Santiago de Cuba province as a precautionary measure.

"We cannot put a single human life in danger. We must evacuate people in areas we know are likely to be flooded, without losing time," local civil defence official Lazaro Esposito told Cuban television on Wednesday.

On the forecast track, Sandy will move over portions of eastern Cuba before heading to the Bahamas Thursday and Friday. Tropical storm conditions were also forecast for Florida's east coast.

The approaching hurricane has also brought rough weather to the US naval base at Guantanamo where terror suspects are held.

The Pentagon said a preliminary hearing at Guantanamo involving the alleged al-Qaeda mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in 2000 was delayed until Thursday due to the storm.

In 2008, Cuba was hit by three hurricanes that caused a total of $10bn in damage and affected more than half a million homes.

Read more on:    cuba  |  jamaica  |  weather  |  us superstorm

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