Hurricane Irma batters Cuba
The U.S. State Department warned American travelers Wednesday not to visit Cuba during recovery efforts for Hurricane Irma, which left a path of destruction along most of the northern Cuban coast.
“Large parts of the country, including many areas of the capital Havana, are without power and running water,” the travel warning said. “Transportation is difficult and many roads remain impassable due to downed trees and power lines.”
Irma swept along the Cuban coast as a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane and caused widespread coastal flooding and wind damage from the eastern tip of the island to west of Havana. In the capital, waves of more than 30 feet crested the Malecón and surged into seaside neighborhoods. Irma caused at least 10 deaths in Cuba, seven of them in Havana.
The seaside U.S. Embassy in Havana suffered “severe flood damage,” said the travel warning, and on Sept. 6, three days before Irma made landfall in Cuba, the State Department authorized the voluntary departure of government employees at the embassy and their families because of the approaching hurricane.
The embassy is offering only limited consular services until further notice and said visa interviews from Sept. 7 through Friday are being rescheduled.
The State Department warning said U.S. citizens in Cuba in need of assistance shouldn’t go to the embassy because of the damage it has sustained, but rather should phone the embassy at +53- 5280-5791 or contact the State Department at 1-202-501-4444.
Those who want to inform the State Department about U.S. citizens who need emergency assistance due to Irma can email IrmaEmergencyUSC@state.gov, providing as much information as possible about those in need, or call the State Department at the number above or at 1-888-407-4747 if they’re phoning from the United States or Canada.
The travel warning said while Cuban authorities are working to clear debris in the capital, it will be several more days before roads are fully open. North central Cuba, which suffered the most severe damage, “should be avoided until further notice,” it said.
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