Hurricane Sandy lashes Cuba and moves towards coastal US


A HURRICANE that has already caused major damage in the Caribbean is threatening the east coast of the US, particularly northern Florida, a key swing state in the US presidential election.

Hurricane Sandy grew into a major potential threat to several east-coast states, from the Carolinas to Maine, after hammering Cuba’s second largest city and taking aim at the Bahamas, US forecasters said.

Strengthening rapidly after tearing into Jamaica and crossing the warm Caribbean Sea, Sandy hit southeastern Cuba yesterday with 170km/h winds that cut power and knocked down trees across Santiago de Cuba.

Reports from the city of 500,000 people, about 750km southeast of Havana, spoke of significant impact, with many homes damaged or destroyed.

According to one Cuban radio report, at least one person was killed, bringing the death toll to at least three after fatalities in Jamaica and Haiti.

US government forecasters warned that much of the US east coast could be swiped by Sandy, with flooding, heavy rains and high winds from late today. By early next week, it could hit an area of New England where Hurricane Irene struck last year.

Forecasters said the hardest-hit areas could span anywhere from the Carolinas up to Maine, but New York city and Boston were also potentially in harm’s way.

“It is likely that significant impacts will be felt over portions of the US east coast through the weekend and into early next week,” the US National Hurricane Center said.

The Miami-based centre said yesterday that Sandy had moved well off Cuba’s coast and was approaching the central Bahamas with maximum winds of 170km/h.

High winds, rains and pounding surf are expected across parts of Florida’s Atlantic coast, with the biggest impact starting last night and lasting through today.

– (Reuters)