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Tornado in Cuba hits Havana, killing at least 3 people

Rare tornado hits Cuba

Havana, Cuba -- Cuba's president said Monday that a tornado had killed three people and injured 174 others in eastern Havana. The Cuban capital was battered late Sunday and early Monday by powerful winds and heavy rains. A blackout hit many Havana neighborhoods around 9 p.m.

Early Monday, President Miguel Diaz-Canel posted photos of himself on Twitter with rescue workers besides what appeared to be a vehicle overturned by the storm. Little further information about the storm appeared in state media.

Photos posted by Cuban media and Havana residents on Twitter showed cars crushed by fallen light posts and trapped in floodwaters around the city. One local radio station said on Twitter that the neighborhoods of Regla and 10th of October, and the town of San Miguel de Padron, had been affected by the tornado.

Julio Menendez, a 33-year-old restaurant worker, said the 10th of October borough "looks like a horror movie." Menendez, who was home Sunday night when the tornado hit, said "from one moment to the next, we heard a noise like an airplane falling out of the sky. The first thing I did was go hug my daughters," who are nine and 12.

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Cuban firefighters assist the evacuation of a mother and her baby in the tornado-hit Luyano neighborhood in Havana early on Jan. 28, 2019. Getty

He spoke Monday near the Daughters of Galicia Hospital, whose patients, all expectant mothers or mothers with newborns, were evacuated to another hospital. Many glass windows in the seven-story hospital had been sucked out of their frames by the power of the wind, leaving curtains flapping in the breeze.

CBS News producer Portia Siegelbaum reported from Havana that experts were out evaluating the damage and searching for possible additional victims under rubble. 

The Cuban Civil Defense, fire department, police, and health workers were all mobilized. The electric company was also out in force to try and restore service as quickly as possible to areas with downed posts and adjacent areas that did not suffer direct damage from the storm, but where electricity has been out since Sunday night.  

Siegelbaum said it had been 79 years since a strong tornado hit Cuba, and no one was prepared for the sudden eruption of chaos on Sunday as windows were blown out, roofs caved in and massive trees toppled onto cars.

The exact intensity of the tornado -- and the extent of the damage -- were still being evaluated.