Cuba

Hurricane Dennis killed 16 in Cuba - Castro

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HAVANA, July 11 (Reuters) - Hurricane Dennis left 16 people dead and $1.4 billion in damages in Cuba when it roared through the island last week flattening houses and downing trees and powerlines, Cuban president Fidel Castro said on Monday.

"In total, 16 people died," Castro said in a seven-hour national television broadcast on the impact of the storm.

The new death toll raised to 38 the number of people killed by the hurricane's rampage through the Caribbean before slamming the U.S. Gulf Coast. In Haiti, 22 people died, most of them when a bridge collapse over swollen river.

In Cuba, all but three of the deaths occurred in the southeastern province of Granma where hundreds of clapboard homes in two coastal towns were flattened by the storm's outer bands on Thursday.

Storm fatalities are rare in Communist Cuba where the authorities can muster state resources to evacuate hundreds of thousands from the path of hurricanes. For Dennis, 1.5 million of Cuba's 11.3 million people were evacuated.

It was the country's highest death toll from a hurricane since Flora hovered over eastern Cuba for three days in 1963, killing 1,126 people. In 10 major hurricanes between 1985 and 2004 Cuba had lost only 22 lives.

Dennis caused extensive damage when it plowed ashore in Cienfuegos in central Cuba on Friday. Gusts of up to 149 mph (240 kph) ripped up trees and snapped electricity lines. The storm weakened as it churned overland and brushed the east side of Havana, where many Cubans live in precarious old buildings.

The hurricane damaged or destroyed 120,000 houses, leveling 15,000 homes, Castro said.

The storm left many parts of Cuba, including the cities of Havana, Matanzas and Cienfuegos, without electricity for two days.

The United States, through its diplomatic mission in Havana, offered Cuba $50,000 in disaster relief, but the offer was immediately rejected by the Cuban government.

Castro said Cuba would never accept aid from his ideological rival as long as the United States maintains economic sanctions adopted after the Cuban leader seized power in a 1959 revolution.

Castro also rejected any offers of aid from the European Union, with which he has been at odds since Brussels criticized a crackdown on Cuban dissidents in 2003.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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