Hurricane Ida lashes Cuba

A man protects himself from wind and rain as he walks at the seafront Malecon while Hurricane Ida approaches the island, in Havana, Cuba, on 27 August, 2021

Hurricane Ida lashed Cuba's westernmost region as it moved toward the Gulf of Mexico, forcing the evacuation of more than 2,400 people and causing power outages in the southern Isle of Youth as the storm gained intensity and speed.

A total of 2,461 people were reported to have evacuated on Friday as Ida strengthened from a tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane on the one-to-five Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity, reports Xinhua news agency.

With winds of 120 km per hour, Ida became the first hurricane to make landfall in Cuba this hurricane season, entering the area of Punta del Este, on the southeastern most tip of the Isle of Youth.

Moving in a northwesterly direction at about 24 km per hour, Ida was about 10 km from the centre of the island and 245 km east of the western tip of the province of Pinar del Rio.

Weather conditions are expected to continue to worsen in western Cuba, while in the capital city of Havana, the rains have gradually intensified.

Earlier on Friday, Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel urged people to take precautions in light of the imminent impact of Ida on the island.

"Tropical storm Ida is nearing Cuba. The western territories have prepared to confront it. I ask our people to be disciplined and responsible not to regret the loss of human lives," he said on Twitter.

So far, no casualties have been registered in the country as a result of the hurricane.

Forecasters estimate that Ida, which formed as a tropical storm in the Caribbean on 26 August, is expected to hit the US on Sunday.

The hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from 1 June to 30 November.