HAVANA, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Hurricane Irma continued to batter Cuba's northeastern coast on Friday with strong winds and waves just as Cuba's Civil Defense has decided to issue hurricane warning for some of the island's central and western provinces, including the capital Havana.
At noon local time, Irma's eye was located just north of the eastern province of Las Tunas and about 420 kilometers east of the central town of Caibarien, where the storm should come closest to Cuba's shores.
It remained a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale with maximum sustained winds of 240 kilometers per hour and continues to move west-northwest at 22 kilometers per hour.
In early Friday, Irma pounded the north coast of the province of Guantanamo particularly the towns of Maisi and Baracoa where it caused floods and heavy rains.
Over 45,000 people had been evacuated in these two localities of Guantanamo to prevent any risks to human lives.
In a statement, Cuba's Civil Defense said it has decided to place under hurricane warning the provinces of Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Mayabeque, Artemisa and Havana.
Over 700,00 Cubans had been evacuated from coastal areas to inland and protected houses to diminish the damages that could be caused by the storm's winds.
New evacuations in Cuba's western provinces are expected in the coming hours, particularly in coastal towns and cities.
Irma on Saturday is expected to make a northwest turn and head to the U.S. state of Florida for a direct hit on Sunday.
Irma is considered the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history.
The last hurricane to hit this Caribbean nation was Matthew in October 2016, when it destroyed over 9,000 homes and properties but claimed no lives in the easternmost province of Guantanamo.