HAVANA – Hurricane Irma was moving to the north and away from Cuba on Sunday morning after causing severe overnight coastal flooding on the island’s northwest coast, where Havana and the resort town of Varadero are located.
The Cuban capital was hit by strong winds throughout the night that caused damage to the roofs of some homes and to power lines and knocked down some trees, EFE observed.
Havana’s Malecon seawall has been flooded since Saturday night and the inhabitants of homes near the ocean were evacuated – some 15,000 people in the capital.
“Strong storm surge and severe coastal flooding persist on the northwest coast, including the Havana Malecon. The outer bands of Irma are continuing to affect the western and central regions with heavy rains,” the Cuban Meteorological Institute (Insmet) said in its latest bulletin.
Coastal flooding will persist throughout the day all along the western coast, which could be hit with waves of between 6-9 meters (19.7-29.5 feet), while in the central zone the waves will be up to 7 meters high.
Although Irma is moving away from Cuba, tropical storm-force winds will continue to affect the island on Sunday, Insmet said.
Irma’s eye made landfall Friday on the eastern part of the Communist-ruled island as a Category 5 hurricane and came dangerously close to making landfall as a major hurricane near Varadero on Saturday night, coming within 45 kilometers (28 miles) of that tourist resort.
In Varadero, a resort town in Matanzas province that is around 140 kilometers east of Havana, the hotel infrastructure suffered significant damage. Some 18,500 people were being housed Saturday night in Varadero, including 5,000 tourists who had been evacuated three days earlier from the cays of northern Cuba (the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago), another tourist area that also was hard hit by Irma.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in its latest public advisory at 11 am (1500 GMT) that Irma, now a Category 4 hurricane, should move over the Lower Florida Keys shortly and then move near or over the west coast of the Florida Peninsula later Sunday through Sunday night.