Eta makes landfall in Florida Keys after lashing Cuba
Hurricane Eta (AFP)

Tropical Storm Eta made landfall at the Florida Keys late Sunday, bringing heavy rains and strong winds after slamming Cuba and earlier cutting a deadly path through Central America and southern Mexico.

At least 200 people are dead or missing after Eta -- initially classified as a hurricane -- ripped through Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras, causing flooding and landslides.

But by the time the storm made landfall on the tip of Florida, it had weakened with the US National Hurricane Center downgrading its earlier warnings.

Eta was still bringing "strong winds, heavy rains, and dangerous storm surge" over portions of southern Florida and the Florida Keys, the NHC said in its latest 0900 GMT advisory.

The storm made landfall at 11:00 pm (0400 GMT) in Lower Matecumbe Key in the Florida Keys, the NHC said earlier, adding the "strong tropical storm" was blowing maximum sustained winds of 65 miles (100 kilometers) per hour.

A tropical storm is considered a hurricane when it hits wind speeds of 74 miles per hour.

A hurricane watch for south Florida was discontinued, while a similar advisory for the Florida Keys and Florida Bay was replaced with a Tropical Storm Warning.

But the NHC upgraded their advisory for Florida's west coast to tropical Storm Warning.

Cuba's meteorology institute Insmet had reported Eta's landfall earlier with the storm punishing the archipelago of Jardines del Rey.

Heavy rains were reported in the eastern half of Cuba, where authorities have evacuated thousands of people due to the risk of flooding.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel convened an emergency government meeting, and "no loss of life or significant damage to homes have been reported," according to state media.

Before the storm arrived, 74,000 people were evacuated, 8,000 of them to shelters set up by the authorities, the reports said. 

State television also said that the 600 foreign tourists vacationing in Cuba were protected.

Florida's preparations

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the state's southern counties on Saturday in advance of the storm, even as residents in the rain either protested or celebrated Joe Biden's win in the US presidential election.

The Florida Keys would close schools on Monday, Covid-19 testing sites were temporarily shut and authorities opened shelters and began handing out sandbags for residents to protect their homes from flooding.

Eta hit Nicaragua on Tuesday as a powerful hurricane before losing strength.

It caused torrential rains that have left some 200 victims dead or missing in Central America.

The most affected country has been Guatemala, where about 150 people are missing.  

Rescuers on Saturday searched for the bodies of residents of an indigenous village in the north of the country that was hit by a landslide.

In Honduras, heavy flooding in the north and northwest of the country killed 23 people, according to authorities.

Torrential rain and a bitter cold front linked to Eta have also claimed at least 20 lives in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.