Source AP ©

Cuban flooding turns country's life into chaos

At least 42,000 Cubans were kept from returning to their waterlogged homes and a nickel mine was shut down in the wake of last week's Tropical Storm Noel.

The official Prensa Latina news agency said 42,000 of the 100,000 people evacuated in Granma Province because of weeks of rain, exacerbated by last week's tropical storm, are still staying with friends and relatives or in state shelters.

Government television showed residents splashing through waist-high flood waters with bags of grain slung over their shoulders. Military trucks rumbled through eastern towns, providing food and building materials in areas now safe for people to return.

Noel, which moved into Cuba on Oct. 31, also prompted tens of thousands of evacuations in other eastern and central provinces, but official reports were unclear about how many residents were forced from their homes in areas outside Granma.

Noel's heavy rains and flooding killed 148 people and left tens of thousands homeless elsewhere in the Caribbean. No deaths were reported in Cuba, where rains were subsiding and floodwaters starting to recede slightly in many areas Wednesday.

Still, more than 20,000 homes have been damaged across the island and as many as half of the highways in eastern provinces were flooded, state-run newspapers said.

Operations at the government's Rene Ramos Latour nickel plant in Mayari were halted on Tuesday after floodwaters overran a main operations building, state radio reported.

Two other nickel plants, the government-controlled Che Guevara facility and Pedro Soto Alba, a Cuban joint venture with Canada's Sherritt International Corp., are operating normally in the same region, Radio Progreso said.

Cuba is among the world's top nickel producers. The Rene Ramos Latour plant produces nearly 12,500 metric tons of nickel oxide annually.

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