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Cuba evacuates 180,000 people as tropical storm Elsa approaches the island

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HAVANA: Cuba evacuated 180,000 people amid fears Sunday that Tropical Storm Elsa could cause heavy flooding after hitting several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people.
The Cuban government opened shelters and moved to protect sugar cane and cocoa crops ahead of the storm, which advanced offshore along Cuba’s southern coast Sunday night. Most of the evacuees went to the homes of relatives, while some people took refuge in government facilities. Hundreds of inhabitants of mountainous areas took refuge in natural caves prepared for emergencies.
The next target of the storm was Florida, where the governor. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 15 counties, including Miami-Dade County, where a high-rise condo building collapsed last week.
Downtown Elsa was near the southern coast of Cuba Sunday night, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) west of Cabo Cruz, and was moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of about 60 mph (95 kph), said the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The center said the storm was expected to gradually weaken as it passed over central Cuba on Monday.
“ After Elsa emerges over the Straits of Florida and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, slight reinforcement is possible, ” he said.
Rain fell intermittently in the eastern provinces of Cuba throughout Sunday as the storm passed south.
“ So far it is a gentle and serene rain. There are no downpours. The streets are not overflowing, ” Yolanda Tabio, a 73-year-old retiree living in Santiago, told The Associated Press. “ I thought it could be worse. ”
Rafael Carmenate, a local Red Cross volunteer who lives in front of the beach in Santa Cruz del Sur, told the AP by phone: “ We have some water _ showers. The sea has not intruded. It’s cloudy and gusty. ”
The storm killed one person in Saint Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. A 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman died in separate events in the Dominican Republic on Saturday after walls collapsed on them, according to a statement from the Emergency Operations Center.
Elsa was a Category 1 hurricane as of Saturday morning, causing widespread damage across several eastern Caribbean islands on Friday as the first hurricane of the Atlantic season. Among the hardest hit is Barbados, where more than 1,100 people reported damaged homes, including 62 that collapsed. The government promised to find and fund temporary housing to avoid herding people into shelters amid the pandemic.
Downed trees were also reported in Haiti, which is especially vulnerable to flooding and landslides due to widespread erosion and deforestation. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency said Sunday that three people were injured by fallen trees.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for western Cuba and for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas.
Elsa is the first storm with the fifth name on record and it also broke the record as the fastest hurricane in the tropics, with a speed of 31 mph on Saturday morning, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.
Parts of Cuba are forecast to see 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 centimeters) of rainfall through Monday, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches (20 centimeters). Jamaica was expected to score 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters), with maximum totals of 15 inches (38 centimeters).
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