Hurricane Sandy strengthens and hits Cuba
Hurricane Sandy has strengthened into a strong category two as it makes landfall in south-east Cuba.
The hurricane was carrying maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h) as it hit land just west of Santiago de Cuba, said the US-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).
On Wednesday, one man was killed as Sandy swept over Jamaica.
A hurricane watch is in place in the Bahamas, and Florida has been placed on tropical storm watch.
The NHC said wind gusts of up to 114 mph had been reported in Santiago de Cuba.
It warned the hurricane was bringing heavy rain which could “produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially in areas of mountainous terrain”.
Local officials in Cuba said about 1,700 people had been evacuated as a precaution.
“We cannot put a single human life in danger. We must evacuate people in areas we know are likely to be flooded, without losing time,” defence official Lazaro Esposito told local media.
In Jamaica, more than 1,000 people sought refuge in shelters, with residents reporting widespread power outages, flooded streets and damages to buildings.
The authorities said one person, an elderly man, died when he was crushed by falling boulders as he tried to reach his home.
A 48-hour curfew has been imposed in all major towns, though some looting has been reported.
The country’s sole energy provider, the Jamaica Public Service Company, said earlier that 70% of its customers were without electricity.
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