Cubans batten down the hatches ahead of Hurricane Ian

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By Gael Camba
A chicken leaves its roost at a dive boat's unmanned booking booth in Key West, Florida on Monday, as King Tides begin to flood city streets.
A chicken leaves its roost at a dive boat's unmanned booking booth in Key West, Florida on Monday, as King Tides begin to flood city streets.   -   Copyright  Rob O'Neal/AP   -  

On Monday, Cubans were battening down the hatches ahead of what could be the region's strongest hurricane in around a century.

Citizens prepared for the strengthening Hurricane Ian, as rain and winds lashed the island's western tip on Monday night.

Authorities evacuated 50,000 people from the region, while fishermen in Havana removed their boats from the water.

Packing winds of around 135 kilometres an hour, the hurricane is expected to pick up speed as it roar's toward the west coast of Florida, increasing to 177 kilometres an hour.

As many as 300,000 people could be evacuated from the Tampa Bay area, as experts predict a surge of up to three metres of ocean water, enough to flood coastal communities.

Florida's governor said Ian could pose a risk of "dangerous storm surge, heavy rainfall, flash flooding, strong winds, hazardous seas, and isolated tornadic activity." As long queues were forming at gas stations, resident started stocking up on food and basic supplies.

Some local authorities are distributing free sandbags so residents can protect their homes from flooding. The White House has also issued an emergency declaration to help federal and state officials co-ordinate.