Hurricane Lili Takes Aim at Havana

Report
from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 18 Oct 1996
HAVANA (Reuter) - Hurricane Lili hit the Isle of Youth south of Cuba Thursday night on a path expected to take it onto the
mainland and then over or near the Cuban capital Friday, forecasters said.

Weather forecaster Jose Rubiera told state television the storm was packing sustained maximum winds of around 80 mph,
adding these were likely to strengthen. The Isle of Youth was experiencing intense rain, he said.

He said the hurricane would hit the mainland somewhere in the Province of Havana countryside in the early hours of Friday and then head toward the Cuban capital Havana.

There was no word yet on any casualties or on the extent of damage to property or crops on the Isle of Youth, which is an
area of large citrus plantations.

State television said that local officials had not yet reported any casualties, but Rubiera said that one of the first pieces of
damage was the antenna of the local weather office on the island.

President Fidel Castro Thursday urged Havana residents to step up preparations as the hurricane strengthened and bore down on Cuba with torrential rains and flood tides.

At least 10 people were killed and hundreds driven from their homes as rain from Lili lashed Central America, rescue workers and local authorities said.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Florida Keys, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the center of Lili was located at latitude 21.4 north, longitude 82.7.0 west, about 110 miles south-southwest
of Havana, or 200 miles south-southwest of Key West, Florida. It was moving to the north-northeast at about 8 mph.

A hurricane warning issued by the Cuban government was in effect for the mainland from Camaguey province westward, the
hurricane center said.

Castro urged Havana residents to step up preparations for Hurricane Lili as the storm, approaching Cuba from the south,
changed course and appeared set to hit the capital.

Informed by Rubiera of the latest forecasts, Castro said "they (the people of Havana) have to intensify measures.

"Any carelessness is a life lost," Castro said during a visit to the national meteorological center. "Havana has little time to
prepare," he said. Castro's comments were broadcast by state television.

Visiting the headquarters of Havana's defense committee, Castro reiterated authorities' concern that too few people have so far left their homes in older parts of Havana, where there is a danger of buildings collapsing in severe weather.

Local officials have said at least 60,000 people in Havana live in homes that are in a very poor state and should be evacuated, but by mid-day Thursday only about 5,000 people had been evacuated, apparently because people were reluctant to leave behind their possessions or were afraid they would be robbed while they were absent.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Dry Tortugas including Florida Bay.

The Bahamas government issued a hurricane watch for the northwest Bahamas but warnings were called off for the Cayman
Islands.

Parts of Cuba were being pounded by torrential rain and forecasters said rainfall up to 12 inches was likely, raising the
possibility of life-threatening flash floods and mud slides in mountainous areas.

Storm-surge flooding of 3 to 6 feet was possible near where the eye of the storm crosses mainland Cuba, likely early Friday,
forecasters said.

So far the highest death toll was in Nicaragua, where Civil Defense officials said five people had drowned in swollen rivers
across the country over the past four days and 200 were left homeless.

In Costa Rica four people were killed in river tragedies and in Honduras a young toddler died when his house was washed
away in a shantytown on the edge of the capital Tegucigalpa.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation:
For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit https://www.trust.org/alertnet