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Cholera kills at least 3 in Cuba, bad water wells blamed

HAVANA, Cuba - Cholera has killed three people and sickened another 85 in Cuba, according to a government official, although the number of those dead could be as high as 15, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

A handful of unconfirmed cases have also cropped up in the town of Caimanera, a town next to the U.S.'s Guantanamo Bay detention camp, according Miami-based Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Herald

Two of the young stars in the much talked about film "Una Noche," about three Cuban teens trying to escape, have gone missing and believed to have defected to the U.S. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

The outbreak was caused by contaminated well water, the Cuban government said. 

The government blamed recent heavy rains and high temperatures for the water problems, which forced the closure of some wells and the chlorination of the water system in the hardest hit areas. 

More about infectious diseases

The Public Health Ministry said in a statement that the township of Mazanillo in the southeast province of Granma had suffered the most cholera cases, which have occurred in the last few weeks, but that the outbreak is slowing. 

Frustration over the slow response to Haiti's cholera outbreak erupted into violence for a second day on Tuesday. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

The government confirmed that three people -- who ranged in age from 66 to 95 and suffered from other, chronic health problems -- had died.

Cholera outbreaks have been rare, or at least not publicized, in Cuba since the 1959 revolution and the creation of a national health system by the communist government. 

Cholera causes intestinal problems and can lead to death if not treated promptly and properly. 

Cuba has touted its medical role in nearby Haiti, where Cuban doctors and nurses have worked since that country's 2010 earthquake to, among other things, contain a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 7,000 people. 

It is not unusual for Cubans to complain that the government sends too many of its doctors abroad to earn money for the country and promote its humanitarian image, leaving its own national health system short of qualified personnel and medicines. 

Cuba's health ministry said it has the "resources necessary for the adequate attention to patients in all the health institutions" during this cholera outbreak. 

In an unusual homily, the pontiff called for free thought, and more freedom for the Catholic Church in Cuba. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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