Deadly Gustav Assaults Cuba

Associated Press
Sunday, August 31, 2008

HAVANA, Aug. 30 -- Gustav slammed into Cuba's tobacco-growing western tip as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane Saturday, while tens of thousands of Cubans scrambled to flee the path of the fast-growing storm.

Forecasters said Gustav hit Cuba's mainland after passing over its Isla de la Juventud province, where screaming 150 mph winds toppled telephone poles and mango and almond trees, and peeled back the tin roofs of homes.

Isla de la Juventud civil defense chief Ana Isla said there were "many people injured" but no reports of deaths on the island of 87,000 people south of mainland Cuba. She said nearly all its roads were washed out and that some regions were heavily flooded.

Cuba's top meteorologist, José Rubiera, said the hurricane's massive center hit the country's mainland near the community of Los Palacios in Pinar del Rio -- a region that produces much of the tobacco used to make Cuba's famed cigars. There, the storm knocked down power lines, shattered windows and blew the roofs off some small homes.

Rubiera said the storm brought hurricane-force winds to much of the western part of Havana, where power was knocked out as winds blasted sheets of rain sideways though the streets and whipped angry waves against the famed seaside Malecon boulevard.

Cuba grounded all domestic flights and halted all buses and trains to and from Havana.

The U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, is hundreds of miles to the east, out of the storm's path.


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