A letter from a Canadian living in Cuba
Cuba has been, and continues to be, devastated by Hurricane Ike.
The only thing, and without question the most important thing, that hasn’t been devastated is the will and determination of the Cuban people to surpass this disaster and go forward.
There’s lots of information circulating in the international press about the extent of damages. But there are perhaps a few things that haven’t, and it’s these I want to briefly mention to give you an idea of the extent of damages.
There’s not one province that has gotten off easy. More destruction, less destruction — but all fourteen provinces and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud have suffered from Hurricane Ike. And some have suffered a double impact, especially Pinar del Rio, which is still — as I write this — under Alarma Ciclonica (Hurricane Alarm) due to the intense rains and tropical storm winds that are still hitting the province. All of the province’s 14 municipalities are suffering, but the two municipalities of Los Palacios (south) and Las Palmas (north) have taken the brunt of both Gustav and Ike.
The eye of Ike has left Cuba, but the body is still kicking strong. Imagine: as of about 4pm, it’s slowly growing in size and intensity. Sustained winds of 150 kph. Still category 1 but category 2 starts at 154 kph sustained winds. Its bands of tropical storm winds and rains extend 335 km (radius), covering all of Pinar del Rio with rains reaching to the western part of Camaguey province in central Cuba. And we’re being told to brace for another 12-24 hours of rains. In Habana, we’re still getting occasional gusts up to over 80 kph. All western coastal areas have been evacuated due to inundations. Last night, for instance, ocean waters penetrated two km inland in the Batabano area, on the central southern coast of Provincia Habana.
Lots of “firsts”, but for which no one will get a ribbon:
As of 4:30 yesterday afternoon, over 2.5 million people — or almost 21 percent of the country’s population of some 12 million — have been evacuated. And the number is slowly growing, as rivers that have never flooded before leave their banks, fattened by torrential rains, and dams that are fill and spilling over contribute even more to the flooding. 2.5 million! In the 17 years I’ve been in Cuba, including through many hurricanes, I don’t remember that many people ever being evacuated before. That’s an immense undertaking involving organization, coordination and cooperation. Significantly, over two million of these people were able to get shelter in the homes of family and friends, yet another indication of the incredible solidarity that is an everyday functioning part of Cuban society.
The damage to food crops as well as export crops is extensive. In Villa… READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE