US warns would-be Cuba travelers: Consider the risks following Hurricane Irma

The U.S. State Department warned would-be travelers to Cuba Monday to “carefully consider the risks” in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and to avoid hard-hit northcentral Cuba “until further notice.”

It also warned U.S. citizens to not try to go to the U.S. Embassy in Havana because it suffered “severe flood damage.”

The late-morning advisory essentially sharpened a more wide-ranging notice issued on Wednesday.

“Recovery efforts are underway,” it said. “Major roads are now open in Havana and power and water service has been restored in most of the city, but some parts of the country may be without power and running water.”

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Hurricane Irma, blamed for at least 10 deaths in Cuba, battered Cuba’s northern coast. In the capital, waves of more than 30 feet crested the Malecón seawall and surged into seaside neighborhoods, swamping homes, hotels and businesses. The official Granma newspaper reported damage to a total of 4,288 homes, of which 157 were completely destroyed.

Travelers who do choose to go to the island should keep their family informed about their whereabouts “and keep in close contact with their travel agency, hotel staff, and local officials,” the State Department advised.

It added: “U.S. citizens in Cuba in need of emergency assistance should contact the Embassy by telephone at +53-5280-5791 or the Department of State at 1-202-501-4444. At this time, U.S. citizens should not attempt to go to the U.S. Embassy in Havana as it suffered severe flood damage.”