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Tropical storm hits Cuban capital

A weakening Tropical Storm Paula has dumped heavy rain on Cuba's capital, Havana, turning some of the streets into shallow rivers and knocking out power before sliding along the island's northern coast.

But it was far less destructive than the three hurricanes which devastated Cuba in 2008.

Cuban officials discontinued all storm warnings for the island and the storm was expected to weaken to a tropical depression.

Paula's maximum sustained winds had diminished to near 45mph (75kph) late on Thursday, with some higher gusts, said the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami.

The storm was moving east at about 14mph (22kph), and forecasters projected it would continue in that direction for the next 48 hours. Tropical storm-force winds extended about 60 miles (95km) from the centre, mainly to the north-east.

Paula was expected to deliver an additional 1in to 2in (2.5cm to 5cm) of rain over central Cuba and the central Bahamas for the next day and a half, and up to an inch over parts of the Florida Keys, the Hurricane Centre said.

By the time the storm has left Cuba it will have dumped up to 10in (25cm) of rain in some areas of the island, bringing threats of flash floods and mudslides, the centre said.

A storm surge was expected to raise water levels by as much as 1ft to 3ft (30cm to 60cm) above normal tide levels in central Cuba.

Earlier in the day the storm passed over western Pinar del Rio, turning rutted country roads into red-brown, muddy quagmires, and lashing humble homes, rural schools and thatched tobacco-drying huts with wind.

A Category 2 hurricane the previous day, Paula lost strength as it crawled along the island's north-western coast and was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday morning.


From Belfast Telegraph