Cuban firefighters battle blazes after storm lashes island

Specialized forces of the Cuban Fire Brigade were working to put out major blazes at two buildings in eastern Santiago de Cuba after tropical storm Laura lashed the area.

The first fire was sparked early Monday morning at a warehouse belonging to the Pepito Tey Polytechnic Institute, where mattresses and academic materials were stored for the start of the school year in September, reports Xinhua news agency.

Due to its location in the Jose Marti district of the city, the institute also doubles as evacuation centre during storms.

Videos posted online showed the flames could be seen from kilometres away.

According to preliminary reports, some 20 families were affected, but no deaths or injuries were reported.

The second fire, detected two hours later, caused the total loss of a property belonging to the Provincial Poultry Company and severe damage to two residential buildings housing several families.

The Interior Ministry is investigating the causes of the two fires following the heavy rains and strong winds brought by Laura, which damaged roofs, uprooted trees, and toppled electricity and telephone poles.

Laura made landfall on Sunday night in Santiago de Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 100 km per hour.

It is expected to move on from Cuba to the Gulf of Mexico by early Tuesday as it heads towards the US.