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Ike makes landfall in Cuba as Category 3 hurricane

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  • NEW: Rains and flooding from Hurricane Ike kill at least 73 people in Haiti
  • NEW: Ike makes landfall on north coast in province of Holguin as Category 3 storm
  • Ike tears up Turks and Caicos, drawing comparisons to damage from Katrina
  • Evacuation order prompts 15,000 tourists to flee Keys, mayor says
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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Hurricane Ike made landfall on the north coast of eastern Cuba Sunday as a Category 3 storm that weather experts were calling a "major hurricane."

The eye of the hurricane made landfall in the province of Holguin near Punto de Sama, with maximum winds near 125 mph.

Earlier Sunday, Ike hit Turks and Caicos Islands, leaving a trail of devastation. Rains and flooding from Ike also killed at least 73 people in Haiti.

"It pretty much looks like an episode of 'The Twilight Zone,' " said Audley Aftwood, a reporter for a radio station on Grand Turk Island. "It's like the end of the world."

Aftwood estimated at least 90 percent of homes he saw on the island were missing roofs and hundreds, if not thousands, of people had been made homeless.

"This is definitely similar to Katrina in New Orleans or worse," Aftwood said. "It's going to take years to bring this island back to the way it was." Video Watch Aftwood describe the damage »

The possibility of similar devastation prompted state and local officials in Florida and Louisiana to prepare for what may be the third major storm to affect the Gulf Coast in less than a month.

"Let's hope it's all a false alarm," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Sunday as he preemptively issued a state of emergency. His state is still recovering from Hurricane Gustav; more than 370,000 people there are still without power, nearly a week after Gustav made landfall, he said.

"There continues to be much uncertainty about the predicted track," he said of Ike.

On Sunday, President Bush declared a state of emergency in Florida. The hurricane's outer bands could start affecting the Florida Keys by Monday afternoon. Video Watch Floridians react to the threat of Ike »

Evacuations began in the Lower Florida Keys and Key West at 8 a.m. Residents of the Upper Keys and mainland Monroe County began evacuating at 4 p.m.

Keys residents can evacuate their pets to a shelter at Florida International University as long as the pet is properly caged, Monroe County Emergency Management Director Irene Toner said in a statement. Video Watch residents prepare to evacuate »

About 15,000 tourists left the area Saturday as a hurricane watch was issued for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef southward, Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson said. Fleeing the Keys as Ike nears

"We understand the inconvenience to the residents, to the tourists, to the businesses," Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. "But this one is just too close, folks. It's just too close to say, 'Bunker down and we'll be OK.' "

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At 11 p.m. ET, Ike had sustained winds near 120 mph (195 kph), with higher gusts. It was located about 135 miles (100 km) west of Cabo Lucrecia, Cuba.

The storm was moving westward at about 13 mph (20 kph), and forecasters expect it continue on that track and turn west-northwest Monday.

Ike has raised fears about flooding, as rain from Tropical Storm Hanna saturated the ground when it struck last week, he said.

The hurricane's eye never touched Haiti. But the storm system did bring heavy rains and winds.

Jean Pierre Guiteau, executive director for the Red Cross in Haiti, said 52 people were killed when a river burst its banks in the mountain town of Cabaret --not far from the capital Port Au Prince. Video Watch groups struggle to deliver aid to Haiti »

He said those people died in their homes or as they tried to flee surging flood waters. Another 10 people were missing in the town and 22 people were injured.

Another 21 bodies -- presumably those of fishermen -- were pulled from the sea at Fort Liberte, Haiti, close to the border with the Dominican Republic.

"It's a very grim picture," Guiteau said. "Things certainly are getting no better."

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, at a news conference Saturday, urged residents to begin evacuating the Florida Keys Sunday morning.


"We continue to watch with much concern the track of Hurricane Ike," Crist said. "Ike has grown rapidly into a dangerous storm."

Miami-Dade County has not issued an evacuation order and has not opened shelters, Mayor Carlos Alvarez said Sunday, noting that plans are subject to change.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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