Hurricane Paloma with 195-km an hour windspeed hits Cuba (Lead)

November 9th, 2008 - 3:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Havana/Miami, Nov 9 (DPA) Hurricane Paloma, packing winds of up to 195 km per hour, slammed the central Cuban province of Camaguey overnight Saturday, the third powerful hurricane this season to lash the Caribbean island.The Cuban weather service said the storm weakened slightly from the 230 k an hour winds that had threatened. Cuban officials said they expected Paloma to leave Cuba Sunday morning headed for the Bahamas.

The National Hurricane Centre in Miami, Florida, said the storm had dropped from Category four - with winds of 230 km an hour - to Category three on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Paloma has already buffeted the Cayman Islands on its way to Cuba, but spared the islands heavy damage, according to local officials.

The storm became a hurricane in the Caribbean Sea late Thursday.

The storm hit after dark so the extent of damage was not immediately clear.

But in parts of the Cayman Islands, hit by the late-season storm a day earlier, roofs were sheared off and an airstrip was left under two feet of water.

“There is one word to explain it: catastrophe, The Miami Herald quoted John Bogle, a Red Cross volunteer in the Caymans, as saying. “I estimate there is 98 percent damage to all the roofs that I can see.”

Cuba was struck by two powerful hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, within just seven days of each other between August and September. The island was devastated, with an estimated $9 billion in damage.

Paloma is the third hurricane and the fifth major tropical storm to hit Cuba this season.

It is the 16th storm in the current season - set to end Nov 30 - in the Atlantic Ocean.

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