Tuesday, September 9, 2008

VIDEO:Hurricane Ike blows past Havana

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Strong winds and rains batter Havana

Hurricane Ike rattled Havana after its second landfall in Cuba but the eye of the storm has now passed out to sea, Cuban hurricane monitors say.

It destroyed at least 16 buildings in the city but no injuries were reported and the centre of the storm is now in the Gulf of Mexico.

More than a million people remained in storm-proof shelters on Tuesday.

Four people died in Cuba as a result of the hurricane - the first storm-related fatalities for several years.

There was also extensive damage to property. One person was killed by a falling tree, an elderly woman died when her house collapsed and two others were electrocuted.

State television said almost 1.25 million people had been moved to shelters - more than one tenth of the island's population.

Louisiana warning

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The eye of the storm made its second landfall in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, about 55 miles (88km) south-west of Havana, packing sustained winds of 80mph (130km/h).

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="226" caption="Hurricane Ike's projected path"]Hurricane Ikes projected path[/caption]

Ike first struck in Holguin province, which is home to the nickel mines, the country's top export earner.

The BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says it is still too early to tell the full extent of the economic impact wrought by Ike.

Tens of thousands of buildings have been damaged and crops destroyed.

There is also likely to be an impact on the tourist industry, our correspondent says.

As the storm heads out into the Gulf of Mexico, it is expected to pick up speed and is projected to reach the US Gulf coast.

Louisiana's governor has warned coastal residents to be prepared to move inland.

However, the US National Hurricane Center said it was still too early to tell in which direction Ike would move.

Vulnerable architecture

The United Nations cultural agency, Unesco, has offered to help the Cuban government make good any damage to heritage sites and important buildings in Havana.

The agency's director in Havana, Herman van Hooff, said that the latest storm could be a setback to restoration work.

"Since the [1990s] there has been a very strong management system in place for the old Havana area, and a lot has been restored since then," he told the BBC.

"There is still a lot of fabric, a lot of architecture, a lot of housing that is in a fragile state, so any impact by a hurricane, be it wind or rain, is a great concern to everybody."

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="306" caption="Hurricane Ike has made its second landfall in Cuba, south of the capital, Havana, bringing fierce winds and torrential rains."]Hurricane Ike has made its second landfall in Cuba, south of the capital, Havana, bringing fierce winds and torrential rains.[/caption]

Cuba is still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Gustav, which hit just over a week ago, damaging almost 100,000 homes in the west of the island.

Ike earlier caused 66 deaths in Haiti and reportedly damaged 80% of the homes in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, has endured the onslaught of four tropical storms in a three-week period, causing more than 550 deaths.

Are you in the Caribbean? Have you been affected by the storms? What preparations have you made to deal with the adverse weather? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below.

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Source: BBC

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