Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hurricane Wilma 2

Floodwaters Recede in Cuba, Reveal Damage

By VANESSA ARRINGTON, Associated Press WriterTue Oct 25, 9:43 PM ET

Floodwaters from Hurricane Wilma that transformed the coastal streets of Cuba's capital into rivers began receding Tuesday, leaving behind damage to historic buildings and the famed Malecon seawall.

The coastal highway paralleling the Malecon was dotted with chunks of the seawall as well as huge holes where the road had been chewed up by pressure from the ocean.

The windows of Havana's seaside hotels and the headquarters of the island's tourism ministry were smashed, with nearby wire fences twisted and clumped with debris.

Those living near the ocean sifted through what was left of their belongings.

"I wanted to die when I first came home," said Dayami Gonzalez, scrubbing her refrigerator. "We just finished fixing up this apartment a year ago, and now we have to go back and do repairs again. It could take years."

Gonzalez's husband, Alejandro Rios, held up a tape measure to a gooey line on the wall showing how high the water had reached — 38 inches. The couple had lifted most of their valuables up before the storm, but, in most cases, not high enough.

"We never thought it would come up this high," Gonzalez said of the water. "Mattresses, books, tables — ruined."

Basement apartments took the most severe blow, with water reaching the ceiling during the ocean's assault and still waist-deep under Tuesday's sunny skies.

There were no immediate reports of deaths attributed to Hurricane Wilma. Nearly 700,000 people were evacuated across Cuba's west as Wilma approached.

Although the Malecon and adjacent neighborhoods often flood during storms, the extent of Monday's flooding was highly unusual.


Associated Press writer Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana contributed to this report.

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