[QODLink]
Americas
Hurricane Paloma lashes Caymans
Cuba begins evacuations ahead of arrival of late-season category three storm.
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2008 06:44 GMT
Waves were expected to reach nine metres high off of the Cayman Islands [Reuters]

Hurricane Paloma has strengthened into a powerful category three storm in the Caribbean as it lashed the Cayman Islands with wind and rain, and threatened already storm-battered Cuba.

The storm, coming late in this year's hurricane season, shut down businesses, schools and government offices on Friday in the Cayman Islands, a major financial centre.

Residents of the British territory shuttered their homes while some visitors sought to evacuate the islands.

Waves up to nine metres high were forecast by the nation weather service, which would cause dangerous coastal storm surges.

The US National Hurricane Center said Paloma gathered strength, with sustained winds over 185km an hour, late on Friday as it neared Grand Cayman Island.

Hurricane Katrina was a category three storm when it came ashore near New Orleans in 2005 and swamped the low-lying US city, causing hundreds of deaths. The Cayman Islands, however, are considered less vulnerable to the tropical storms, with structures built to withstand fierce winds and rain.

Cuba evacuation

Paloma was expected to hit Cuba on Saturday, possibly gaining more strength on the way.

Cuba has already suffered $5 billion in damages from two hurricanes this year.

Officials said they had evacuated at least 85,000 boarding school students on Friday and would soon begin moving people from flood-prone areas.

"It's a bad dream," said Ofelia Hernandez, a store worker in Cuba's Camaguey province, where the storm was expected to make landfall.

"Barely two months and once again in checkmate."

As it formed on Thursday, Paloma doused Honduras with heavy rains. The UN estimates 70,000 people have been made homeless there by recent storms.

Hurricane season typically extends from June through the end of November in the Atlantic and Caribbean.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
About 500,000 participated around the globe in the Peoples Climate March, and Al Jazeera spoke to some in New York.
Separatist movements in Spain, Belgium and Italy may face headwinds following Scotland's decision to stay in the UK.
A fishing trawler carrying 500 migrants across the Mediterranean was rammed by another boat, causing hundreds to drown.
Anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party - with roots in the neo-Nazi movement - recently won 12.9 percent of the vote.
Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters in previous Gaza war is fighting to bring 100 wounded kids to Canada.