The Miami Herald
September 27, 1998
20,000 homes stricken in housing-poor Cuba
`Major damages' also hit sugar cane crops

             By JUAN O. TAMAYO
             Herald Staff Writer

             Hurricane Georges' rain and winds collapsed some 100 old houses in Havana and
             damaged more than 20,000 elsewhere in the already housing-strapped island,
             Cuban officials reported Saturday.

             Havana radio and television reported five people had died in the two-day battering
             but said Civil Defense officials would not have an estimate on total nationwide
             damages until next week.

             Officials in Havana reported about 100 houses in the colonial-era heart of the
             capital had suffered total or partial collapses but said there had been no reports of
             personal injuries.

             The flooding from Georges' huge waves appeared to have been less serious than
             expected in coastal parts of the capital but worse than forecast along the southern
             shores of Havana province, the officials said.

             Havana's famed shoreside Malecon avenue remained closed to motor traffic
             Saturday and rivers were still swollen in central Matanzas province.

             A string of civil defense officials interviewed on radio and television reported
             damages to housing totaling 1,000 houses destroyed or seriously damaged and
             20,000 to 25,000 affected less seriously.

             Three people were killed when they came into contact with live electricity lines
             downed by the storm, and two others drowned, according to official reports.

             U.S. citizens living in Havana said they were beginning to hear unconfirmed reports
             of significant damages to sugar cane fields in central and eastern Cuba, the area
             hardest hit by Georges' winds and rains.

             Agriculture Minister Alfredo Jordan told Cuban television that there had been
             ``major damages to the coffee, plantain and banana, tobacco, sugar cane, cacao
             and vegetable crops in eastern Cuba.

             Cuba's sugar industry, while working at record low levels in recent years, remains
             the third-largest generator of hard currency income for the island, behind
             remittances from exiles abroad and tourism.

             While tobacco is not usually planted in eastern Cuba -- the heart of the industry is
             in the westernmost province of Pinar del Rio -- Cuban officials planted large
             expanses in the east this year in an effort to capitalize on the worldwide cigar

             Civil defense officials evacuated nearly half a million people during the two days
             that the hurricane slogged through Cuba.


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