September 9, 2008

Four Killed As Hurricane Ike Batters Cuba

Text of report by Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website on 9 September

Havana, Cuba: At least four people were killed as a weakening Hurricane Ike Tuesday closed in on the western province of Pinar del Rio with heavy winds and persistent rains.

Cuban officials said they had cut off electricity and gas services in most of Havana to prevent "accidents and human losses".

The official Cuban News Agency, Prensa Latina, said that most streets were empty and the traffic had been limited to emergency vehicles transporting people away from the path of the storm that has so far killed nearly 100 people in neighbouring Haiti.

The news agency said that more than one million people have so far been evacuated and taken to government shelters or have gone to the homes of relatives and friends as Hurricane Ike is about to make landfall on Cuba for the second time in less than 48 hours.

Colonel Jose Betancourt said that while most people have followed the directions issued by the Civil Defence, "some people are showing a low-risk perception by relaxing safety measures that should be observe under a hurricane warning".

The Civil Defence reported Monday night that four people died in Cuba as a result of Hurricane Ike when the hurricane made landfall in the north-eastern coast of Holguin on Sunday night as a Category 3 storm.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said that the storm, a Category One hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, was located near latitude 22.4 north, longitude 82.4 west or about 40 miles south of Havana.

"Ike is moving towards thewest-northwest near 13 miles per hour and this general motion is expected to continue for the next couple of days. The centre of Ike should reach the south coast of western Cuba in the next few hours and emerge into the Gulf of Mexico late this afternoon or this evening,' the NHC said in its latest bulletin.

It said that the maximum sustained winds were nearing 80 miles per hour and some strengthening is expected later on Tuesday morning before the storm moves over western Cuba. "Additional strengthening is forecast to occur after Ike reaches the Gulf of Mexico," it added.

The Cuban authorities on Tuesday called on residents to take directions issued by the Civil Defence "with the aim of reducing human losses and damages to state and private property".

The Cuban Meteorological Institute said Ike will make landfall near Punta La Capitana, in the western province of Pinar del Rio at about 11:00am local time on Tuesday.

"Unlike other hurricanes that have crossed near Havana, Ike is not generating swells that may cause flooding in the city's northern coast. Local government officials are monitoring the powerful storm and touring neighbourhoods to make sure all necessary preventive and emergency measures are observed," Prensa Latina added.

Originally published by Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website, Bridgetown, in English 1350 9 Sep 08.

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