Hurricane Gustav Sweeps Across Cuba

Waves caused by the approaching Hurricane Gustav hit the sea front of Havana's 'Malecon' , Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008. Gustav swelled to a fearsome Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph (195 kph) as it shrieked toward the heartland of Cuba's cigar industry Saturday on a track to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, three years after Hurricane Katrina. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco/Prensa Latina)
AP/Ismael Francisco, Prensa Latina
By CBS News producer Portia Siegelbaum reporting from Havana.


Hurricane Gustav wove a destructive path through western Cuba Saturday leaving homes, warehouses and churches roofless, and high tension towers, electricity and telephone lines downed, but no deaths have been reported. 350,000 people were evacuated in the region.

Eighty percent of Havana remains without electricity despite escaping the brunt of the storm. But while the capital escape major damage, others parts of Cuba weren't so fortunate.

Los Palacios, the small town where the storm made landfall on the Cuban mainland yesterday, was destroyed.

The town's two churches lost their roofs, its only restaurant was flattened, and homes collapsed like matchbook towers.

Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth, a small island south of Havana province which was struck first, are totally without lights.

Banana plantations were decimated in Pinar del Rio but the government is reporting that tobacco workers were able to transport the recently harvested leaves destined for its famed cigar industry to safe ground before Gustav struck.

On the Isle of Youth, powerful storm winds twisted metal warehouses into unrecognizable shapes, ripped roofs and walls from homes, and high tension towers, electricity and telephone poles, along with trees covered the roads.

In the storm's wake, civil defense workers and residents are out picking up the rubble and trying to salvage what they can. The electric company is sending repair crews from unaffected provinces to the west to help reestablish service.

Cuban TV is warning people to avoid downed cables as they go about the recovery effort.

Health warnings are also out urging people to carefully wash fruits and vegetables before eating them as crops have been contaminated by flooding, and also warning that water accumulated in empty cans, tires, discarded egg shells, fields, rubble and in destroyed buildings are a breeding ground for aedes aegypti mosquitos, carriers of dengue fever.