CAMAGUEY, Cuba — Crashing waves and a powerful sea surge from Hurricane Paloma destroyed more than 400 homes along Cuba’s southern coast, but the storm rapidly weakened into a tropical depression Sunday as it moved over the island.
Early damage reports were limited, but state media said the late-season storm toppled a major communications tower, interrupted electricity and phone service and sent sea water almost a mile inland, ravaging a coastal community near where it made landfall.
No storm-related deaths were immediately reported.
Paloma roared ashore near Santa Cruz del Sur late Saturday as a Category 4 hurricane but quickly lost strength, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Forecasters said the Cuban and Bahamian governments discontinued all warnings associated with Paloma by Sunday morning.
The hurricane center’s forecast said Paloma or its remnants should be near the north coast of Cuba today.
On Sunday, waves more than 10 feet high leveled about 50 modest houses along the coast of Santa Cruz del Sur. Civil Defense authorities said altogether 435 homes in the community were destroyed.
Javier Ramos told the Associated Press he rebuilt his simple wood-frame house in the town after Hurricane Ike, only to watch Paloma flatten it again.
“At least we’re alive, but my wife hasn’t seen this yet,” Ramos said as he scavenged bits of clothing and smashed dishes in his front yard. “I don’t know how she’s going to react. It’s going to be terrible.”