Hundreds of people have been rescued from homes in Cuba's capital, Havana, after sea defences succumbed to flooding brought by Hurricane Wilma.
Sea water has flooded half a dozen Havana neighbourhoods
Rescuers used boats and inflatable dinghies to reach people trapped as sea water swept hundreds of metres inland.
Some residents said the devastation was the worst since the "storm of the century" in 1993.
Hurricane Wilma has since moved on to Florida, striking the US state with winds of 125mph (200km/h).
Appeal for calm
But storm surges brought by Wilma struck all along the north-west coast of Cuba.
Waves burst over Havana's sea walls, flooding the coastal highway and inundating Havana's western neighbourhoods with waist-high water.
Resident Fernando Lores, 57, said: "I've never seen anything like this in my life. People have been left homeless and it's a real surprise to us."
Olga Salinas, 58, who became trapped on the second floor of her home in the Miramar district, said: "I'm terrified, this was apocalyptic and the worst is yet to come.
"The streets will be full of rubbish and people will be trying to salvage whatever they can."
Ms Salinas said the disaster was the worst since 1993 when a storm brought by the El Nino phenomenon caused damage of up to $1bn (£560m).
President Fidel Castro appeared on television late on Sunday to appeal for calm.
Electricity was then cut off for the capital and some western parts of Cuba as a precaution.
Other areas of Cuba have also been affected by the storm. Cuban television said sea water had penetrated up to a kilometre (half a mile) inland in some southern communities while tornadoes have destroyed homes in the west.