Matthew devastates historic Cuban town

Thursday, October 06, 2016

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GUANTANAMO, Cuba (AFP) – Hurricane Matthew devastated the historic colonial town of Baracoa in eastern Cuba and hurled large rocks onto the roads, cutting off a total of four towns, authorities and residents said Wednesday.

Cuban authorities said no victims had been reported from the storm – the Caribbean’s fiercest hurricane in nearly a decade – which swept the province of Guantanamo with winds of up to 220 kilometres (135 miles) per hour Tuesday.

But residents said it left a trail of destruction in Baracoa, the first Spanish settlement in Cuba.

"There’s nothing left of Baracoa. Just debris and remains. The big colonial houses in the city centre, which were so pretty, are destroyed," said resident Quirenia Perez, 35, speaking to AFP by cellphone after losing her roof, electricity and landline in the storm.

"About 70 per cent of the city’s roofs flew off. There are a lot of trees, electric polls and telephone lines down," said Joel Gomez of humanitarian organisation Oxfam in the nearby city of Guantanamo, relaying reports from the Red Cross.

He said the hurricane sent floodwaters surging into Baracoa, partially or completely destroying many homes in the town of 82,000 people.

Baracoa and the towns of Imias, Maisi and San Antonio del Sur, all near the island’s eastern tip, have been cut off from the rest of the country by rocks picked up in the storm and scattered across the roads, said Deputy Defence Minister Ramon Espinosa Matin.

"There was a lot of destruction in Baracoa. We don’t have any reports of lives lost, but the material losses are substantial," he told journalists.

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