Powerful Hurricane Matthew threatens Cuba

Category 4 storm to hit eastern Cuba Tuesday

By Hatzel Vela - Cuba Correspondent, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

SANTIAGO DE CUBA - Residents of Santiago de Cuba made last-minute preparations Monday as Hurricane Matthew moved closer to the island. 

Meteorologists predict that the storm could be the most powerful Atlantic hurricane since Felix in 2007. 

There was a hurricane watch in effect for the eastern side of the island on Monday, as the strong Category 4 moved slowly northward. 

An Italian tourist said all he can do is wait, and is now concerned about Cuban residents, some of whom live in structures that aren't sturdy. 

"For me, there is no problem," Petro Vinci said. "For Cubanos, there is much problem. The house is no good." 

Cuban President Raul Castro took to Twitter to say it was important to be prepared. Cuban authorities expect the hurricane to affect Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo on Tuesday. 

Cuban officials also asked residents in the provinces of Cienfuegos, Villa ClaraSancti Spirítus and Ciego de Ávila to remain vigilant. 

At the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo, the military started evacuations on Saturday. Employees, contractors, families and their pets boarded cargo aircraft, according to Navy spokesman Capt. John Filostrat. 

In the neighborhood of Altamira, which is on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, residents are still cleaning up the devastation left from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 

There were long lines at gas stations in the city on Monday. Distribution centers were also set up to privde sandbags and food.  

Many residents placed those sandbags on their roofs in hopes that the added weight will prevent them from blowing away. 

One man, named Alexis, took his roof down. 

The task took an hour, but Alexis said it's worth it so he doesn't have to buy a new one after the storm passes. 

The Cuban military was helping those living in areas at risk for flooding and mudslides to relocate to government shelters. 

With the likelihood of coastal flooding, tide levels were expected to be from 4 to 6 feet east of Camaguey and 7 to 11 feet east of Cabo Cruz, according to meteorologists.

Meanwhile in Miami, Cubans were rushing to send cash to relatives through Western Union to help them prepare. 

 

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