Hurricane Sandy on Thursday claimed 6 lives in Haiti and 11 lives in Cuba, in addition to causing material losses in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, Xinhua reported.
The category 2 hurricane on the five-rung Saffir-Simpson scale killed six people in Haiti's southern and southwestern regions, where torrential rains caused rivers to overflow, flooding nearby homes, local authorities said.
Three people, including one adult and two minors, died when they were swept away by a river in Petit-Goave city, 68 km southwest of Port-au-Prince, local administrative chief Samdra Jules said.
In addition, Haiti's Civil Protection Office confirmed Thursday that two people, a woman and a man, died in the cities of Torbeck and Coteaux, near Camp-Perrin, 214 km southwest of Port-au-Prince.
Haitian President Michel Martelly on Thursday urged residents via Twitter to stay safe and to use a special hotline set up by the government in case of an emergency.
In Cuba, the hurricane killed 11 people and caused substantial damage in the southeast city of Santiago, including partially or completely destroying homes, schools and hospitals, knocking down trees, and cutting off electrical power in the country's second-largest city, Santiago de Cuba, located 860 km east of Havana.
"Santiago turned into a city without trees," said Cusco Tarradel, a Cuban TV correspondent in Santiago.
Cuban leader Raul Castro sent a message of solidarity to Santiago residents, assuring them that he would "soon visit" the area worst hit by the hurricane, national Rebelde Radio said Thursday on its website.
"Raul asked local authorities there to keep him informed, and the people to have confidence in the revolution, because no one will be left behind and he will soon visit them," the radio station said.
Cuba's National Electoral Committee (NEC) announced it was indefinitely postponing a second round of municipal elections originally scheduled for Sunday in Cuba's eastern provinces due to the hurricane, and would announce new election dates for the provinces of Las Tunas, Holguin, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.
Sandy made landfall in Santiago around 1 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) Thursday before heading out five hours later through Cabo Lucrecia, in northeast Cuba.
The hurricane was headed towards the Bahamas at 26 km per hour (kph) with maximum sustained winds of 165 kph.
Also in the Dominican Republic, which shares the same island with Haiti, 8,755 people had to be evacuated due to the storm, officials said, adding the rains were expected to continue until at least Saturday.
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