Hurricane Irma made landfall overnight in Cuba as a Category 5 storm, the first system of that intensity to reportedly hit the country in over 90 years. The island is now riding out the storm, which includes heavy wind, waves, and rain.
CGTN’s Michael Voss reports from Havana.
The system is still making its slow yet destructive way along the islands northern coast, blowing off roofs, downing power and telephone lines and causing widespread flooding. Many areas are now without electricity.
Forecasts originally predicted Havana would escape the storm, with Irma turning north towards Miami. That didn’t happen, however, and the system is now lashing the capital.
Havana’s seafront boulevard, El Malecon, faces waves between five and seven meters high. The hurricane warning for the capital was only given on Saturday morning, offering little time for people to try and make their properties safe.
Pre-planned shelters quickly filled up with thousands of people evacuated from those areas most at risk of flooding.
The storm is expected to intensify well into the night. Havana officials fear the sea will penetrate several blocks inland.
Thousands of tourists evacuated in advance from the resorts most at risk. Some hotels along the northern coast have reportedly been damaged. Elsewhere, tourists are trying to ride out the storm confined to hotel lobbies or their rooms.
Tropical storm force winds extend for 300 kilometers from the eye of Irma, and towns such as Cienfuegos on the southern coast are also being hit.
Hurricane Irma hammered Cuba and marched toward the Florida Keys on Saturday with punishing winds and rain. Irma had winds of 125 mph (200 kph) and it was expected to regain strength over warmer waters before hitting the Keys on Sunday morning. The storm left more than 20 people dead in the Caribbean.