HAVANA — As dawn broke on Tuesday, the streets of Havana were deserted, with residents taking shelter from the rising strength of Hurricane Ian, which made landfall on the island in the early hours.
The Category 3 hurricane has already lashed the Caribbean island country with heavy rain and winds of up to 125 miles per hour and is expected to cause heavy flooding. About 50,000 Cubans have been evacuated, according to the authorities.
“Another dawn without rest,” wrote Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel on Twitter, noting that government officials were mobilizing to help in the aftermath of the storm.
Cuba’s western provinces, where the hurricane made landfall, have been the hardest hit. Videos shared on social media from the town of Coloma, along Cuba’s southern coast, showed people inside their homes with water up to their knees.
The hurricane comes as Cuba continues to recover from one of the worst periods of financial hardship in the country’s history, with the nation’s ailing infrastructure already producing widespread power blackouts. The financial misery, along with ongoing political repression, sparked one of the largest protest movements in decades last year.
The island has long borne the brunt of Atlantic storms. In 2008, two hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, blasted across the country, leaving at least seven people dead, damaging crops and buildings, and setting off more than 150 landslides in Havana.
On Tuesday, flooding in western Cuba damaged houses and tobacco crops, an important agricultural industry. In the municipality of San Luis, north of the city of Santiago de Cuba, one of the largest tobacco growing areas had been decimated.
Thousands of families were evacuated and widespread power outages were reported in the western city of Pinar del Río. Tourists in places like Varadero, a popular beach resort in the country’s north, were relocated to more secure locations.
Official state media in northern Matanzas province said that 76 shelters had been opened in the region, and that they expected the evacuation of some 17,000 people,
Local authorities predicted that the center of the hurricane would leave the island later on Tuesday, before moving into the Gulf of Mexico and then on toward Florida.
Camila Acosta reported from Havana, and Oscar Lopez from Mexico City.