Category 4 winds lashed the communities of Imías, Maisí and Baracoa in the easternmost province of Guantánamo on Tuesday night.
During the height of the storm, journalists from radio station La Voz del Sol in Baracoa and television station PrimadaVision posted continuously on Facebook.
“The walls of the station have been shaking and it just felt like something was falling. Of the paladar in front, I think there’s very little standing, very sad. We were praying that the sea wouldn’t reach the station; it didn’t happen but…. Now it’s calm, there is no rain, no wind. We are in the eye of the hurricane.”
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Photos posted on social media as people began to emerge from their homes in Baracoa just after dawn showed streets littered with rubble, collapsed walls and spider webs of fallen electrical lines.
By 6 a.m., Matthew had moved 75 miles north of Baracoa but the effects of the hurricane were still being felt.
Hurricane-force winds whipping the province of Holguín were expected to diminish as the hurricane moves farther north, but tropical-storm force winds are still hitting the eastern provinces as far west as Camagüey.
Storm surges of 10 to 13 feet, with waves as high 25 feet, were still causing coastal flooding on the north coasts of Guantánamo and Holguín provinces and to a lesser degree from Las Tunas to Camagüey, according to Cuba’s Institute of Meteorology. On the north coast of Ciego de Ávila light flooding also was reported.
Cuban forecasters said rainfall of four to six inches was expected Wednesday with more in mountainous areas.
At Guantánamo, base spokeswoman Julie Ann Ripley reported “damage is minimal” In Hurricane Matthew's aftermath. “The airport seems fine. The harbor, we've got the security boats out running,” she said, and workers were clearing the ferry landings of debris in anticipation of resumption of ferry traffic resuming connecting the two portions of the base that straddle Guantánamo Bay.
No injuries were reported and lunch was to be served as usual at the base dining rooms, called galleys.
Timing was uncertain, however, on the return of the 700 family members who were evacuated in military cargo aircraft to the Florida Panhandle over the weekend. With the storm expected to hit the Eastern Seaboard, Ripley said, the focus was on Hurricane preparation there.
Separately, Southern Command spokeswoman Army Col. Lisa Garcia likewise reported “minimal damage” in the Detention Center Zone where the Pentagon maintains a staff of around 2,000 troops and contractors as well as 61 war on terror captives.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and 20-foot waves when Matthew made landfall on the island. The center predicted 8 to 12 inches of rainfall for eastern Cuba, the Associated Press reported.
Matthew remains a powerful and dangerous storm moving north at 8 mph.
Miami Herald staffer Carol Rosenberg contributed to this report.
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