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Hurricane Irma Leaves Widespread Destruction Across The Caribbean


Florida has yet to see the worst of Hurricane Irma. But the storm has already left widespread destruction in Cuba and across the Caribbean. Michael Weissenstein is Caribbean bureau chief for the Associated Press. He joins me by telephone from Cuba to talk about the situation there. Michael, thank you very much for doing this.

MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN: Sure. Thanks for having me.

WERTHEIMER: I understand that Irma has moved off of Cuba. Is your weather - your weather there has calmed down?

WEISSENSTEIN: Yes. It's - the worst of it passed over last night and early this morning. And we're moving now into the recovery phase.

WERTHEIMER: So has that given you a chance to get out and see what happened, see how much damage was done?

WEISSENSTEIN: Yes. We spent the morning touring around Havana and looking at a lot of flooding, a lot of downed trees. And, of course, the whole city and much of the country is without electricity.

WERTHEIMER: The coast - the north coast of Cuba - all along that north coast was an encounter with Irma, as I understand it.

WEISSENSTEIN: Yeah. The storm just rolled up the north coast over the Keys, where there are a lot of all-inclusive resorts. There's been a surge of resort building there in recent years with the opening with the States, which has prompted a lot of new interest from other countries and tourism here. And the storm just chewed up the whole swath of Cuba before turning north of Havana - sorry - east of Havana. But it still caused a lot of damage here, mainly in flooding and powerful winds.

WERTHEIMER: I understand, though, that even as badly as Cuba was hit, some of the smaller islands like St. Martin had it even worse.

WEISSENSTEIN: Yeah. That's, I think, in the Caribbean where the most devastating effects of the storm were felt and are still being felt because those islands are so small and so remote and have such fragile links to the outside world. Internet, phones, airports, harbors - they are still really isolated and cut off. The French and the Dutch and the U.S. are bringing in military transports and C-130 planes and all sorts of other equipment. But they are - they still do not have normal contact with the outside world.

WERTHEIMER: Are you concerned about Hurricane Jose coming?

WEISSENSTEIN: It looks like that mainly skirted the northeast Caribbean, the Leeward Islands that got badly hit. And, obviously, more rain is never good. And I think there was more damage out there. But it's not the devastating second hit that everyone was worried about.

WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much for talking to us today.

WEISSENSTEIN: Yeah, my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.