July 12, 2005

Hurricane Dennis killed 16 in Cuba – Castro

HAVANA (Reuters) - Hurricane Dennis left 16 people dead and
$1.4 billion in damages in Cuba when it roared through the
island last week flattening houses and downing trees and
powerlines, Cuban president Fidel Castro said on Monday.

"In total, 16 people died," Castro said in a seven-hour
national television broadcast on the impact of the storm.

The new death toll raised to 38 the number of people killed
by the hurricane's rampage through the Caribbean before
slamming the U.S. Gulf Coast. In Haiti, 22 people died, most of
them when a bridge collapse over swollen river.

In Cuba, all but three of the deaths occurred in the
southeastern province of Granma where hundreds of clapboard
homes in two coastal towns were flattened by the storm's outer
bands on Thursday.

Storm fatalities are rare in Communist Cuba where the
authorities can muster state resources to evacuate hundreds of
thousands from the path of hurricanes. For Dennis, 1.5 million
of Cuba's 11.3 million people were evacuated.

It was the country's highest death toll from a hurricane
since Flora hovered over eastern Cuba for three days in 1963,
killing 1,126 people. In 10 major hurricanes between 1985 and
2004 Cuba had lost only 22 lives.

Dennis caused extensive damage when it plowed ashore in
Cienfuegos in central Cuba on Friday. Gusts of up to 149 mph
(240 kph) ripped up trees and snapped electricity lines. The
storm weakened as it churned overland and brushed the east side
of Havana, where many Cubans live in precarious old buildings.

The hurricane damaged or destroyed 120,000 houses, leveling
15,000 homes, Castro said.

The storm left many parts of Cuba, including the cities of
Havana, Matanzas and Cienfuegos, without electricity for two

The United States, through its diplomatic mission in
Havana, offered Cuba $50,000 in disaster relief, but the offer
was immediately rejected by the Cuban government.

Castro said Cuba would never accept aid from his
ideological rival as long as the United States maintains
economic sanctions adopted after the Cuban leader seized power
in a 1959 revolution.

Castro also rejected any offers of aid from the European
Union, with which he has been at odds since Brussels criticized
a crackdown on Cuban dissidents in 2003.