Cuba evacuates west coast as hurricane Gustav approaches

August 30th, 2008 - 10:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Havana, Aug 30 (DPA) The Cuban government evacuated areas of the country’s west as hurricane Gustav approached, prompting authorities to elevate to the highest state of readiness.The hurricane strengthened into a “major” category three storm as it neared the coast, and there were fears it could develop into a category four storm with winds of over 200 km an hour.

More than 60,000 people were evacuated from low-lying coastal areas in Pinar del Rio and Isla de la Juventud, and medical and emergency rescue teams were on alert.

Gustav has already at least 59 lives in in Haiti, eight in the Dominican Republic and four in Jamaica. The hurricane’s path was expected later to include the Gulf of Mexico, where workers have been evacuated from several rigs.

Weather services anticipated that Gustav would reach Cuba by Saturday afternoon local time.

Gustav reached hurricane strength Friday, and US authorities expressed concern that the storm could hit the states of Louisiana and Mississippi with full force, three years after the devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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