9 Nov 2008

Hurricane Paloma makes landfall in Cuba

10:01 pm on 9 November 2008

Hurricane Paloma made landfall in south eastern Cuba with winds of close to 200km per hour.

Paloma hit Cuba as a Category 3 storm, but has now weakened to Category 2.

The low lying south eastern town of Santa Cruz took a direct hit from Paloma.

But most residents had evacuated to avoid a potential repeat of the November 9, 1932 storm that hit near Santa Cruz which caused nine metre waves killing about 3,000 people.

Cuban state-run television reported widespread blackouts in Paloma's wake and said a communications tower had fallen in the province of Camaguey.

Rains of up 25.40cm were predicted, with heavier amounts possible in mountainous areas, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

A storm surge up to 6 metres had caused coastal flooding, pushing the sea as much as 700 metres inland and flooding hundreds of homes.

Television reports showed waves whipping up over coastal barriers, a beached boat listing on its side and, on shore, trees bending in the wind.

Before reaching Cuba, Paloma hit the Cayman Islands as a Category 4 hurricane with 230km per hour winds, ripping roofs off houses and storm shelters and flooding streets.

The communist authorities spent much of the day organising mass evacuations with about 250,000 people moved from their homes.

Cuba has already been hit by Hurricane's Ike and Gustav in late August, causing an estimated $US8 billion in damages.