Cuba braces for monster Hurricane Irma

Cuba battens down the hatches as Hurricane Irma roars in. Hundreds of worshipers gather to pray to the country's patron saint, Our Lady of Charity, in hopes of protection from the storm.

CUBA (REUTERS) - Hundreds of Cubans gathered on Thursday (Sept 7) for a procession to honour the country’s patron saint, Our Lady of Charity, hoping for protection from the monstrous Hurricane Irma.

Many Cubans believe the saint protects them from storms blowing in from the sea. Devotees prayed that Cuba would be spared the devastation that Hurricane Irma has already wrought on a string of Caribbean islands as it churns westward.

Cuba also started evacuating some of the 51,000 tourists visiting the island, particularly 36,000 people at resorts on the picturesque northern coast.

With winds of around 290kmh, the storm has smashed through several small islands in the Caribbean including Barbuda, Saint Martin and the British and US Virgin Islands, ripping down trees and flattening homes and hospitals.