Cuban President Raul Castro visited the central provinces of Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus, drenched by heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy, which caused considerable damage as it swept through the eastern part of the island, the official AIN news agency reported.

"We can say we've had a big hurricane in the east and a small 'Flora' (the devastating 1964 hurricane) in the central part of the country," Castro said. "We didn't want to go to the east without first visiting the central provinces."

On Saturday Castro visited the provinces of Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus after presiding over a Council of Ministers meeting which analyzed, among other matters, the measures the government will adopt for repairing the damage from Hurricane Sandy, which crossed the eastern part of the island from south to north last Thursday.

In Santiago, the second most populous province of the country with more than 1 million inhabitants, there have been reported in the housing sector alone more than 14,200 completely destroyed homes and more than 32,000 badly damaged, as well as crop losses, roadways blocked, power outages and loss of telephone service.

The damage extends to other provinces of the region as well, including Holguin and Guantanamo.

The government has not yet released an official estimate of the economic losses caused by the hurricane, but preliminary reports estimate that in Santiago de Cuba they amount to more than 2.12 billion pesos (more than $88 million). EFE