9 sept. 2008

Pinar del Rio Having First Taste of Ike

Pinar del Río, Cuba, Sep 9 (Prensa Latina) Weather conditions began to worsen early Tuesday in this Cuban western province with the arrival of first rains and wind gusts of up to 80 kilometers per hour associated to Hurricane Ike.

Over 79,000 people, accounting for 10 percent of the province’s whole population, were taken to shelters and family houses to prevent human losses.

La Coloma, Las Canas, La Bajada and other traditionally hurricane-hit coastal towns stepped up actions to prevent material damage.

The Pinar del Rio province, 140 kilometers west of Havana, was ravaged by Hurricane Gustav last week. The Category 4 storm tore down or partially damaged 90,000 houses and buildings, including some shelters.

Ike is now threatening to make its second landfall on the island on Tuesday at some point between Havana and Pinar del Rio.

At 00:00 local time Tuesday, the center of Ike was located at 20 kilometers south of Playa Giron on the south coast of west-central Cuba. The estimated minimum central pressure increased to 967mb, while maximum sustained winds are near 130 kilometers per hour.

Ike is a Category 1 hurricane in the Saffir-Simpson scale of 5, and it is moving west-northwest at 20 kilometers per hour.

The hurricane first crossed the island from east to west on Sunday night and Monday morning, and then roared alongside Cuba’s southern coast.

Over 1 Million Evacuated in Cuba

Havana, Sep 9 (Prensa Latina) Over 1 million people sought safety with relatives and friends or at government shelters as Hurricane Ike is about to make landfall on Cuba for the second time in less than 48 hours.

Civil Defense authorities reported that 1,233,336 people evacuated from their homes.

Ike, a Category 1 storm, is expected to hit Cuba between the provinces of Havana and Pinar del Rio, where thousands of residents lost their houses last week after the passage of Gustav, another powerful hurricane.

According to Colonel Jose Betancourt, the Cuban population has closely followed Civil Defense directions aimed at preventing human losses, although he regretted that some people are showing a low-risk perception by relaxing safety measures that should be observe under a hurricane warning.

People should seek shelter from powerful winds and avoid walking through flooded areas, he recalled. Those evacuated are not allowed to return to their homes until a special commission assesses the house safety.

The Civil Defense reported Monday night that four people died in Cuba as a result of Ike.

The hurricane made landfall in the north-eastern coast of Holguin on Sunday night as a Category 3 storm. It then weakened while running along Cuba´s southern coast.