HAVANA – Cuban authorities declared a state of alert in the western province of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth due to the dangerous approach of Hurricane Michael as it moves northward into the Gulf of Mexico.
Michael, which has maximum sustained winds of 120 km/h (75 mph), is currently moving through the Yucatan Channel at some 55 km (34 mi) south of Cape San Antonio on Cuba’s extreme western tip.
Among the first effects reported were intense rains on Cape San Antonio, where almost 60 mm (2 1/3 inches) of rain came pouring down in two hours, accompanied by winds of 97 km/h.
Evacuations in the Sandino municipality have begun for people living in areas likely to be flooded or in homes in dilapidated condition, while on the Isle of Youth authorities are keeping watch on close to 400 families living in temporary facilities in order to be ready to move them away should it become necessary.
Power outages have also been reported in Pinar del Rio, where schools were closed and officials took steps to protect the vital tobacco plantations.
Cuba’s Institute of Meteorology has forecast that heavy surging seas will present a danger to shipping along the southern coast of the western and central regions of the country.
Last year, Cuba was lashed by the powerful Hurricane Irma, which left 10 people dead and material losses valued at some $13.19 billion.