Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

Deadly freak tornado rips through Havana

At least 3 people killed and 172 injured in sudden storm that hit late on Sunday

A rare and powerful tornado that struck Havana killed three people and left 172 injured, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said early on Monday.

Mr Diaz-Canel, who toured the streets of Havana in the pre-dawn hours visiting emergency crews, wrote on Twitter that damage to the Cuban capital from the late Sunday tornado was "severe".

The tornado overturned vehicles, uprooted trees, knocked down lampposts, and left part of the city in the dark.

In the city's Luyano neighborhood storm debris – including parts of a balcony ripped off an old building – blocked the streets.

As emergency sirens blared across the city, firefighters and ambulances rushed to rescue missions, their flashing lights lighting up blacked out areas.

"As of now we mourn the loss of three human lives and 172 injured people are receiving aid," Mr Diaz-Canel tweeted.

He said several emergency teams were working hard to restore power.

At the Hijas de Galicia maternity hospital staff were forced to evacuate the building due to storm damage.

The tornado, spawned by a powerful storm that originated in the Gulf of Mexico, hit western Cuba with winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour.

People described the tornado as having "the sound of a jet engine", and reported feeling changes in the environmental pressure when it arrived, said Armando Caymares at the Institute of Meteorology.

The tornado "caught me in the street, in the car with my wife and children", actor Luis "Panfilo" Silva wrote on his social media account.

"I had to dodge fallen trees, flooded areas and strong winds until I managed to get home. We experienced great fear."

Updated: January 28, 2019 03:58 PM