Hurricane Ian hits western Cuba, state of emergency declared in Florida

HAVANA | Category 3 Hurricane Ian swept through western Cuba on Tuesday causing extensive damage, with gusts up to 208 km/h and torrential rains, before heading north towards Florida, United States. -United.

• Read also: Hurricane Ian threatens Cuba after Fiona hits Canada

No casualties were reported for the time being, according to the authorities, but the strong winds persisted in the west of the island, AFP journalists noted.

The hurricane, which made landfall at 4:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) in the locality of La Coloma, a fishing village in the province of Pinar del Rio (southwest), began to find the sea five hours later on the coast. north of the province, in Puerto Esperanza, indicated the Cuban Institute of Meteorology (Insmet).

Over the next few hours, « the organization and intensity of the hurricane Ian will hardly change”, it will keep “a northern trajectory, moving gradually over the south-east of the Gulf of Mexico, moving its center away from Cuban territory”, specified the Insmet in a press release.

Gusts of wind reached 208 km / h and “strong and intense rains”, with a total of more than 200 millimeters of water in certain areas, were recorded.

Floods also hit coastal areas in the southwest and northwest of the island, particularly in the La Coloma area.

“Desolation and destruction. We lived through hours of terror. There is nothing left”, told a resident of Pinar del Rio, to his son, a journalist from the local television who broadcast the testimony on social networks.

Monday evening, the provinces of Pinar del Rio and Artemisa, as well as the island of Juventud, located 340 km south of Havana, had been placed on “maximum” alert by the Cuban Civil Defense.

In Pinar del Rio, authorities have already evacuated 40,000 people, according to local Communist Party official Yamilé Ramos.

On social networks, the first images circulated, showing flooded streets and roads, strewn with uprooted trees and torn branches, as well as damaged electric poles.

According to an official of the national electricity company, interviewed by state television, the provinces of Pinar del Rio and Artemisa were without power and 315 lines were damaged in the rest of the west of the island.

Before making landfall, Ian had strengthened into a Category 3 “major hurricane” on the Saffir-Simpson scale, grading up to 5.

In the capital, where 2.1 million people live and where gusts of 80 km / h were felt, two houses partially collapsed, according to Alexis Acosta, the intendant of the district of Old Havana.

Florida on alert

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in the United States Ian is expected to “pass west of the Keys archipelago” in southern Florida “at the latest during the day” on Tuesday and “approach the west coast of Florida on Wednesday or Wednesday night”.

« A strengthening (of the hurricane) is expected » after its arrival in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, said the NHC.

The largest island in the British Cayman Islands Territory, Grand Cayman, also issued a hurricane warning.

A state of emergency has been declared across Florida and authorities are stepping up preparations.

Ian « will cause heavy rain, high winds, flash flooding and storm surges, as well as isolated tornadoes along the Gulf Coast of Florida, » Governor Ron DeSantis warned.

He asked residents to stock up and prepare for power cuts, while mobilizing 7,000 members of the National Guard.

US President Joe Biden has approved federal emergency aid for 24 of Florida’s 67 counties.

NASA has given up the launch of its new mega-rocket for the Moon on Tuesday from the Kennedy Space Center located in this southern United States state.

In Honduras, more than 12,000 people have been evacuated in the north of the country after floods caused by rains associated with the passage of Ian, according to authorities. The rains add to those of the past few weeks which have led to flooding causing the death of 13 people. A state of emergency has been declared in the country.

Ian follows Hurricane Fiona which ravaged the Atlantic coast of Canada on Saturday, killing three people, after the Caribbean last week where seven people perished.


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