HAVANA, JAN 29 — Residents of Cuba’s capital Havana have started cleaning up the city after a deadly tornado killed three people Sunday night.
The tornado, one of the strongest twisters that ever hit Havana, also left 172 people injured and caused extensive damages, including toppled homes and knocked-down power lines across several city districts.
Havana’s 10 de Octubre and San Miguel del Padron are hardest hit boroughs. Residents in the two districts said that it was an unprecedented extreme weather event.
Many said the rumble of the tornado was as loud as the engine of an airplane, and some feared that a military operation or a bombing attack was taking place.
Alexei Arrechera, a resident of San Miguel del Padron’s Luyano neighborhood, said, “These are things that we have only seen in movies. It seemed like we were in a plane hangar surrounded by many aircraft.”
According to local media, Luyano was among the neighborhoods that are most affected, along with Regla, Guanabacoa, Santos Suarez and Chibas, all in the south area of Havana.
“It’s a total disaster in this neighborhood. I am 64 years old and I have never seen anything like it before. In my house the concrete walls fell, the water tanks that were on the roof went flying. It was very strong,” Vicente Perez, who lives in the district of Santos Suarez, told Xinhua,
Despite repeated warnings from the island’s weather institute about the danger of severe storms, residents did not expect such a strong tornado. When it hit Havana, most people were watching a popular talent show that usually airs on Sunday night.
“I was standing at the door and was about to close it to watch the show when all of a sudden there was a cloud of bright red light along with a loud buzz. I thought a plane had crashed, but it never occurred to me it was a tornado,” Rosalidia Sargero said.
Sargero said she had a similar experience 30 years ago, when a smaller tornado whipped through Catalina de Guines, a town in Mayabeque province, some 50 km east of the capital.
Margarita del Pozo, a senior citizen seen walking among the rubble of collapsed homes and damaged vehicles, said the tornado blew the roof off her house.
Cuban officials cut electricity throughout the city as a precaution against the expected storm.
“We had just lost power when the tornado hit. It seemed like an invasion. Suddenly the huge water tanks of the building started flying, the walls collapsed. It was horrible. I’m 69 years old and I’ve been through many hurricanes here and never in my life have I seen anything so horrible,” Del Pozo said.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited the districts of Regla and Guanabacoa and spoke highly of the rapid response of police and rescue workers.
Along with a wind speed at 100 km per hour, the tornado caused heavy rains on Sunday night and coastal flooding, including along Havana’s famous seaside promenade, the Malecon.
Tornadoes are not common in Cuba. The worst in history hit the country’s western town of Bejucal in December 1940. – XINHUA