Havana and its residents were preparing Monday for heavy rains expected during the passage of tropical storm Elsa, which fell in the west of the island after killing three people in the Caribbean over the weekend.
Businesses in the capital closed at noon and public transport suspended, and the movement of private vehicles other than civil defense or assistance vehicles was banned.
Some residents have sheltered their furniture, especially those living on the ground floor or on Malecon, Havana’s famous coastal boulevard threatened by floods, according to pictures on television and the internet.
After killing three people in the Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia, Elsa hit Cuba at 14:00 local time (18:00 GMT) in the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, in the Matanzas region (west), the National Hurricane Center said. (NHC) United States.
It was followed by winds of 95 km / h and a travel speed of 22 km / h, in a northwesterly direction, he said.
The tropical storm is expected to lose in intensity as it crosses the island, estimated to last about six hours, before reaching the Florida Strait. The rains will continue in spite of everything.
– 100,000 people evacuated –
As a precaution, more than 100,000 people, mostly in low-lying or coastal areas, have been evacuated to safety, a task complicated by a coronavirus pandemic, and Cuba has faced a large increase in new cases.
“Protecting against Elsa does not mean reducing your protection against Covid,” Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said Monday, according to the news.
Cuba, hitherto little affected by the disease, has increased the number of cases in recent weeks to reach a total of 207,322, including 1,372 deaths per 11.2 million inhabitants.
According to experts from the Cuban National Meteorological Institute (Insmet), the storm is expected to continue at around 20:00 local time (00:00 GMT) near the city of Santa Cruz, in the province of Mayabeque.
On Cuban television, meteorologist José Rubiera warned that the storm had been “charged with very heavy rains” since the sea passed from the east of the island to the province of Matanzas.
He also warned of the risk of flooding because these rains will fall on soils that are already saturated with summer rainfall in previous days.
– Road to the United States –
After leaving Cuba at the end of the evening and entering the Florida Strait, Elsa will “pass near the Keys archipelago early Tuesday. Then she should go near or across parts of the west coast of Florida, on Tuesday and Wednesday,” the NHC predicts.
Elsa’s journey to the United States is common for cyclones passing through Cuba between June 1 and November 30, the traditional hurricane season.
This has prompted the two countries’ meteorological centers to co-operate and exchange information, despite diplomatic tensions between Washington and Havana, which is considered a national security issue.
Storm Elsa has raised concerns in Surfside, Florida, where aid is spreading through the rubble of a building that partially collapsed last week, leaving at least 24 dead and 121 missing.
Authorities decided to speed up the demolition of the rest of the building, which they feared would collapse in return, so that it could be completed overnight Sunday through Monday, before the storm arrives.