Cuba prepares for Hurricane Irma’s fast approach; Florida follows suit

World Today

Cuba is bracing for the worst as the storm works its way across the Caribbean. Officials are taking precautions, from mandatory evacuations to stocking-up on supplies.

CGTN’s Michael Voss reports from Havana.

Evacuations are underway in coastal areas along Cuba’s northern coast, as families move to designated shelters or gather to stay with relatives. Others are protecting their homes as best they can. Meanwhile, Hurricane Irma heads towards the island with sustained winds of nearly 300 kilometers an hour.

Cuba has a well-organized civil defense program which is now fully operational. State bakeries are working overtime to ensure there are sufficient supplies for the weekend, while lines are forming outside supermarkets as people stock up on water and other essentials.

Cubans are closely watching the track of the hurricane, which is due to reach Baracoa on the far-eastern tip of the island by Friday morning.

Memories are still fresh following last year’s Hurricane Matthew, which hit Baracoa with 225 kilometer an hour winds and huge sea surges. They reduced neighborhoods to rubble for up to three blocks inland.

Evacuations are also underway for thousands of foreign tourists staying at beach front resorts. Many are from Canada, which has sent additional planes to bring people home. A cruise ship even left Havana a day early to avoid the storm.

It currently looks as if Havana will escape the worst of the storm. Hurricane Irma is projected to turn north towards the United States before it reaches the island, though it could still face strong winds and flooding.

Floridians are also bracing themselves for the storm. The governor declared a state of emergency, and thousands of National Guard troops have been activated.

There are mandatory evacuations in place for the Florida Keys and low lying areas of Miami. There’s also been a run on supermarkets and home improvement stores. There are reports of fuel shortages, with people filling their cars and many families driving north to safety.

Hurricane Irma looks set to follow them north, with both Georgia and the Carolinas declaring states of emergency.