One million evacuated as Irma lashes Cuba

2017-09-08 22:45
Cubans carry a mattress to a safer place ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, the only town in the Cuban north central zone under a hurricane warning. (Adalberto Roque, AFP)

Cubans carry a mattress to a safer place ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, the only town in the Cuban north central zone under a hurricane warning. (Adalberto Roque, AFP)

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Havana - Hurricane Irma's powerful winds on Friday began whipping the east and centre of Cuba, where more than a million people have evacuated their homes as a precaution.

At 16:00 GMT, the eye of the storm was located around 190 km northeast of Nuevitas, in Cuba's central Camaguey province, moving west-northwest at a speed of 22 km/h, according to the national weather institute, Insmet.

According to an AFP tally of Cuban civil defence figures, close to a million people have left their homes as a precaution - either to stay with relatives or in official shelters.

Winds on Cuba's eastern coast were peaking at around 95 km/h, but heavy rains have already triggered flooding in coastal areas of the far eastern provinces of Holguin and Guantanamo.

Authorities were expecting both the wind and rain to pick up as the dangerous Category Four storm churns past the centre of the island overnight Friday into Saturday, with Camaguey and Villa Clara provinces the most exposed.

The Caribbean's biggest island, Cuba has already evacuated 10 000 foreign tourists from beach resorts and raised its disaster alert level to maximum as Irma drew near.

Havana is expected to be spared the worst, but has been placed on hurricane alert as a precaution.

Packing winds of 250 km/h, Irma has left a trail of devastation across small islands in the Caribbean, and is set to barrel past Cuba on a collision course with the southeast US coast.

Read more on:    cuba  |  weather  |  hurricanes
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