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Castro: Hurricane Dennis Killed 16 in Cuba

Hurricane Dennis (search) killed at least 16 people in Cuba (search), damaged or destroyed 15,000 homes and caused an estimated $1.4 billion in property damage when it pummeled the island last week, Fidel Castro (search) said in an hours-long speech that continued into early Tuesday.

Before Monday, the government death toll had stood at 10.

Castro said 120,000 homes were affected — 15,000 of them destroyed — when Dennis struck with winds of 150 mph on the southeastern coast of Cuba on Friday and sliced northwest across the island on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Thousands of metric tons of vegetables were lost, he said, and the citrus industry in central Cuba was devastated.

Earlier in the program, Castro mentioned his country's rejection of the U.S. government's offer of $50,000 in immediate disaster aid.

Castro said Cuba would accept no American assistance while the U.S. trade embargo of more than 40 years remains in place.

"We would never accept," said Castro. "If they offered $1 billion we would say no."

Nevertheless, the Cuban leader said, "we are grateful" for the offer.

U.S. State Department officials in Havana and Washington said the financial offer was made on Sunday for emergency supplies such as blankets. The American government also offered to deploy an assessment team to independently determine what relief supplies were needed.

"Unfortunately, the Castro government declined these offers," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in Washington.

Cuba, which has not had diplomatic relations with the United States for more than four decades, has routinely turned down similar offers from the American government following devastating hurricanes.

Castro said the European Union could save its money as well because Cuba was only accepting humanitarian aid from "friendly" nations such as Venezuela. The South American nation sent two cargo planes loaded with food, medicine and other emergency aid to Cuba and Jamaica over the weekend.

Casey said the U.S. government would assist American non-governmental groups and individuals wanting to donate humanitarian aid to the island.