Cuban state news outlet, Granma, has reported no loss of life in Cuba as a result of Hurricane Matthew.
The eye of Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Cuba shortly after 6pm on October 4, in the areas around Punta Caleta, on the southern coast of Guantánamo province, moving northward at 9 miles per hour as it passed over the island’s easternmost region. According to forecasts, the hurricane is expected to move off Cuba by this evening, at a point close to Bahía de Mata, to the east of Baracoa.
— karel lamoru moreira (@natumedia1) October 4, 2016
According to Dr. José Rubiera, from the Meteorology Institute’s Weather Forecast Center, Matthew hit Cuba as an intense category four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson 1-5 Hurricane Wind Scale, with maximum sustained winds of 137 miles per hour, higher gusts, and a 949 hectopascal minimal central pressure, making it the first hurricane of this magnitude to hit Guantánamo province.
The eye of the storm passed further east than initially predicted, meaning rain and winds coming from the right side of the hurricane remained over the sea, thus reducing the impact on the island’s eastern provinces.
Preliminary reports indicate intense rains across the entire eastern region of Guantánamo, in particular the municipalities of Maisí, Imías, Baracoa and San Antonio del Sur, where several highways and mountainous areas in Santiago de Cuba, Granma and Holguín have reportedly been cut-off.
The south-east of the island began to experience moderate to strong coastal flooding on the afternoon of October 4, which spread to the northern coast of Guantánamo and Holguín by the evening.
Ahead of the storm’s approach, the U.S. evacuated 700 military spouses and children from Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Sixty-five pets of service personnel were also evacuated, according to Reuters, but the prisoners being incarcerated at the prison were not. The base lost power shortly before noon on Tuesday.
— Carol Rosenberg (@carolrosenberg) October 4, 2016
Military personnel were evacuated to a gymnasium on base, which is serving as a makeshift shelter.
The situation in Baracoa looks grim.
— Mike Theiss (@MikeTheiss) October 5, 2016
Hurricane Ike, Cuba’s Last Hurricane Disaster
in 2008, about 2.6 million Cubans, a fourth of the population was evacuated ahead of Ike.
In Baracoa, 200 homes were reported to be destroyed and waves were running 23 ft high and peaked at 40 ft in different areas of Cuba. The Category 3 hurricane made landfall on September 8 on the north coast of eastern Cuba in the province of Holguín near Puerto de Sama, with sustained winds of about 120 mph, causing widespread flooding and damage to the eastern provinces.
It passed across the central provinces of Holguín, Las Tunas, and Camagüey, emerging over the sea to the south of Cuba during the day. Ike dropped to Category One intensity by the time it crossed the island. It then followed the southern coast of Cuba and crossed the western end of the island in Pinar del Río Province, close to the path taken by Hurricane Gustav ten days previously.
The western areas of Cuba, already devastated by just 10 days before Ike hit, suffered additional major flooding from the rain and storm surge. The sugar cane crop was devastated, with over 1,300 sq miles destroyed. The banana, yucca, coffee and corn crop also suffered significant damage. Alongside Gustav, they were described as the “worst ever” storms by Cuban officials.
In total, seven people were killed in Cuba from Ike due to drowning or collapsing structures. Over 300,000 houses were damaged, with an estimated 43,000 a total loss. The combined damage estimate from Ike and Gustav, and succeeding Paloma is about $9.7 billion (USD), with $7.3 billion of that from Ike, making Ike the most destructive hurricane in Cuban history.