BARACOA, Cuba – Hurricane Matthew caused extensive damage as it moved through extreme eastern Cuba, destroying houses, causing partial building collapses, toppling electric poles and washing out roads, leaving several cities cut off from the outside world.
Officials, however, have not reported any casualties, thanks to the strict measures, including the evacuation of 1.3 million people living in high-risk areas, taken ahead of the storm’s arrival.
In Baracoa, one of the cities that bore the brunt of the powerful hurricane’s fury, houses located on the coast were completely destroyed by sustained winds of up to 250 kph (155 mph), with gusts of up to 300 kph (186 mph), and waves that were several meters high and washed over the roofs of buildings, an EFE reporter confirmed in the storm zone.
Emergency management and Red Cross personnel started working as soon as daylight arrived to rescue people trapped in buildings in Baracoa, the first city founded in Cuba by Spanish conquistadors more than 500 years ago.
Some residents allowed to stay in the city had to abandon their homes in the middle of the hurricane, moving to structures that were considered sound but also sustained damage as Matthew proved to be more powerful than expected, storm victims told EFE.
Streets in Baracoa and other cities in the eastern province of Guantanamo are filled with debris and mud that accumulated during the 10 hours that Matthew pounded Cuban territory.
Extensive damage has also been reported in other coastal cities in Guantanamo, such as Imias, San Antonio and Maisi.
The storm’s powerful winds knocked down telephone poles and washed out roads, crippling communications in the region.
Hurricane Matthew, a powerful Category 4 storm when it made landfall, moved off Cuba at around 4:00 a.m. (0800 GMT) Wednesday.
The storm, the strongest hurricane to hit the Caribbean in nine years, has weakened to Category 3, packing sustained winds of about 200 kph (125 mph) as it heads toward the Bahamas and Florida at 15 kph (about nine mph).