Neighbourhood brigades and government workers are hacking at fallen trees and hauling chunks of concrete out of collapsed homes as Havana attempts to recover from what officials called the strongest tornado to hit Cuba in nearly 80 years.

Three people were killed and hundreds injured, at least 12 in critical condition, after the tornado touched down with estimated winds of 200mph in three neighbourhoods across eastern Havana.

Members of the Provincial Defence Council of Havana said 90 homes collapsed completely and 30 suffered partial collapse.

A quarter of the capital’s two million people were without power on Monday afternoon and more than 200,000 people had lost water supplies because of a broken main and power cuts that left pumps out of service.

Some 100 underground cisterns close to the coastal section of Havana were contaminated by sea water.

Three electric substations were knocked out by the tornado, the strongest to hit Cuba since December 26 1940, when a Category F4 tornado hit the town of Bejucal, in what is now Mayabeque province, officials said.

It also appeared to be the first tornado to hit the capital in at least as many years.

Residents of the three relatively poor boroughs hit by the tornado are bracing for further calamity once the tropical sun starts to dry soaked buildings, which can often lead to structures shifting and collapsing.

Miguel Angel Hernandez of the Cuban Centre for Meteorology said the tornado was a Category F3, with winds between 155mph and 199mph, produced when a cold front hit Cuba’s northern coast.

Other meteorologist told state media the tornado may have been even stronger.

Some of the heaviest damage was in the eastern borough of Guanabacoa, where the twister tore the roof off a shelter for dozens of homeless families.

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Cubans enduring long waits for government housing often live in such multi-family shelters for years.

Press Association


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