Cuba Culture

Thousands of Cubans clean up damage from Hurricane Charley

Posted August 14, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Culture.

BY SANDRA HERNANDEZ | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Adonis Yero Perez stood in front of the pile of metal sheets, wooden boards and branches that use to be his home and wondered how to rebuild the place he spent five years constructing.

“I don’t know where my wife and children will spend the night or where will live,” said Perez, 33, who lives about 20 miles south of downtown Havana. “I have very little and now even less. Tomorrow I have to go back to work because if I miss a day of work then what will my family eat? And now we don’t even have a place to sleep.”

Perez was among the thousands of Cubans who spent Friday trying to clean up the mess left by Hurricane Charley as it raked this island nation of 11 million tearing off roofs, downing power lines and toppling hundreds of trees. The storm pushed across the southwestern part of Cuba cutting a path through dozens of small towns like Camacho and eventually moving into the city of Havana.

Cuban government officials reported three people were killed as a result of the storms and several injured.

But for many Cubans the storm didn’t bring the damage many feared.

“We are alive and I can’t complain,” said Regla Jimenez, 39, who worried the strong winds would topple her wooden shack in Old Havana. “We are lucky the rains weren’t as heavy because it didn’t cause the flooding.”

Some of Jimenez’s neighbors, however, suffered more damage when nearby buildings began to collapse.

“The building next door started crumbling around 2 am and bricks started falling,” said Enrique Rivero, 62, pointing to about a dozen bricks that came crashing through his first floor home in old Havana. “My kids and I were lucky. We were in another room because someone could have been hurt or killed.”

Another area that felt the brunt of Charley’s 100 mph winds was Miramar, located just west of downtown Havana. Residents wrestled with blocked streets and toppled trees that made Fifth Avenue, the main street in the area, nearly impassable. Roads in and out of Havana were also blocked and some towns outside the capital remained without electricity or water.

“It wasn’t as bad as it could have been but this is going to take a few days to clean up,” said Jervasio Molina, who spent most of Friday using a machete to clear away the trees that blocked parts of the road from Santiago De Las Vegas to the north.

Charley’s arrival coincided with Cuban Leader Fidel Castro’s birthday. The 78-year-old Castro made a visit to the national Meteorology Institute, where he congratulated residents of the island for braving the storm. His remarks were broadcast over the state-run television station.

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