Hurricane Lili Strikes Cuban Mainland
Reuters, October 18, 1996
HAVANA (Reuter) - Hurricane Lili lashed the Cuban mainland early Friday as gusts of wind buffeted Havana, knocking down trees and power lines, according to witnesses.
State radio said at 6 a.m. local time (7 a.m. EDT) that the storm was now over the Cienaga de Zapata, a low-lying marshy area in the province of Matanzas.
Lili crossed the Isle of Youth to the south of Cuba on Thursday night, with early reports indicating it damaged bananas crops but no casualties.
Strong gusts of wind were already buffeting the Cuban capital and trees and power lines had fallen in parts of the city, witnesses said.
The electricity company cut power to most parts of Havana before dawn to minimize damage to power lines during the passage of the hurricane.
Thursday night Castro welcomed a group of people evacuated from their homes in Havana to make-shift dormitories set up in the Council of State, his office in Revolution Square. Earlier in the day, Castro had urged citizens to heed warnings to evacuate their homes if they felt the storm could destroy them.
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.
Havana international airport was closed late Thursday until further notice and the national airline Cubana canceled domestic and foreign flights for Friday.
Ordinary Cubans have waited nervously for the past two days for the hurricane to make its way slowly north.
But authorities were clearly worried by the reluctance of some Havana residents to heed advice to evacuate. Officials said that some 60,000 people should be evacuated from homes in a critical state of decay.
Parts of old Havana and central Havana are in poor condition and even in normal weather there are occasional collapses of buildings.
The hurricane is almost certain to be a severe blow to Cuba as it slowly emerges from the worst of economic crisis caused by the collapse of its old trade and aid partner the former Soviet Union.
Crops that may be affected include sugar cane fields. The cane, a crucial hard currency earner for Cuba, is within two or three months of being harvested.