Cuban authorities today mentioned that 700,000 people from the country’s northeastern coast have been evacuated ahead of the category 5 hurricane Irma hitting the island nation.
The eye of the hurricane was expected to pass between the island of Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday morning, reports Xinhua news agency.
“The core of the hurricane will then move between the north coast of Cuba and the Bahamas,” said the statement from Cuba’s weather service.
Irma’s maximum sustained winds remain at 280 km/h with higher gusts making it a potentially catastrophic tropical cyclone.
The hurricane’s outer bands yesterday unleashed pounding rain on Cuba’s eastern provinces of Guantanamo and Holguin. The tropical storm force winds and waves reached 6 to 8 metres high.
Cuba’s Civil Defense declared a hurricane warning for all eastern provinces and the central territory of Ciego de Avila, and urged all governments and civilian groups to complete their preparations for the superstorm. More than 10,000 tourists vacationing in the island have already been evacuated or returned home.
Irma has left a wake of devastation in the Caribbean, killing at least 10 people and damaging homes and other infrastructure in Antigua and Barbuda, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and the north coast of the Dominican Republic.