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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Culture

Hurricane Wilma floods Havana but no deaths

Posted October 28, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Culture.
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Granma.cu

BY ANNE-MARIE GARCIA& | Special for Granma International

SURMAILIS Victores doesn’t halt in her task of clearing water and mud from her modest home in the Vedado neighborhood, one of those most hit by sea flooding after the passing of Hurricane Wilma.

Wilma causes losses to an undetermined number of capital familiesThe water entered her apartment to a height of one meter and she has lost everything: refrigerator, television, stove, mattresses, beds, crockery and other objects.

“I feel like crying, screaming, running away, I don’t even know what to tell you, we’ve lost everything,” she told Granma International.

Surmailis is 29 and has one daughter, Jennifer, aged six, who was being looked after by relatives. She lives with her mother, brothers and sisters and a nephew, a total of nine people.

Elena, Surmailis’ mother, has tears in her eyes while she listens to her daughter and comments: “I feel very depressed, this hurricane was terrible, we lost everything.”

During the hurricane they stayed in a relative’s home, only Surmailis and her husband stayed behind to look after the house. “The water came in up to here,” she explained, pointing to her waist, “We’ve never seen anything like it, even in the storm of the century in 1993.”

While she continues sweeping out the water with a broom, Surmailis said that for breakfast the local bodega (the outlet for basic subsidized food items) was giving out a pack of food per family with water, soft

drinks, sweet crackers, bread, hot dogs and candies.

Two blocks above, Rafael Socorro had put all his furniture and household effects out in the street in order to clean the house. “The beds and some of the furniture got wet; luckily I’d safeguarded the fridge, stove and television in apartments upstairs. “

Rafael, who works in an agricultural market, stayed at home during the hurricane while his wife and 5-month sons Abrahan and Abel were put up by neighbors.

“A commission of architects has already been by to assess the damage,” he explained and added: “We are waiting for a visit from a commission from the Party and People’s Power to help with the repairs that we have to make.”

In the house next door Marieneida Zamora shows us her furniture and domestic appliances damaged by the sea: “We have lost everything, we didn’t have time to get anything out, it was terrible.”

Meanwhile her husband Ciro O’Farrill had accumulated a mountain of rubble outside the door, given that the water penetrated one kilometer into this area, dragging everything in its wake.

In the same street a bit farther up the road, a People’s Power truck is giving out lunches per family nucleus: sauteed rice with bread and a soft drink for residents in the area who had been without water, light or power for more than 48 hours.

House by house, sea water that had penetrated the most low-lying areas was being pumped out of basements, like in a building on Calzada and I, where 50 families live. “We are pumping water out of the cistern that was contaminated by the sea which entered up to one meter in height,” explained Leandro, a worker with the Communications Company.

On Calzada Street some children were playing around the jet of water being pumped out of the basement of a house.

Roberto García, president of the Neighbors Council of a building on J Street and Calzada, shows us his still flooded garage. “The water came in to a height of more than three meters, we’re waiting for them to come and pump it out; luckily, all the cars had been taken to higher areas.” And he affirmed that the water had never entered so high during a hurricane.

The Central Havana municipality was likewise hard hit by Wilma, the sea burst the wall of one section of the Malecon and flooded in to a height of more than two meters.

María Salcedo, aged 59, regards her destroyed home and comments: “In all the 50 years that I have lived here, I’ve never seen anything like it. The sea broke everything, door and windows, all the furniture, the fridge, the stove, everything. We didn’t have time to get things out, we went upstairs to the house of some neighbors who live on an upper floor.”

Leaning on the broom with which she was tirelessly pushing out water, sand and mud, she said: “We are waiting for a commission to assess the damage, we are waiting for government aid to replace and arrange things.”

Meanwhile, on one corner of San Lázaro and Virtudes, Jesus Hozman, an Electricity union worker, is “pumping out the water remaining in the basements and reviewing equipment because, in this area, the cables are underground and we have to control everything properly before we can turn on the power.”

On the corner of Maelcon and Perseverancia, 49-year-old Miguel Remigio has just received the bag of food given out for breakfast. “That’s a great help because we haven’t had any light, gas or water for more than 48 hours. I have lived here all my life and I’ve never seen a hurricane with so much force or the sea so angry.”

The Malecon seawall was unable to resist the sea after the passing of Wilma. Sitting on the wall torn down by waves in the middle of the street, various neighbors were watching the teams of workers collecting all the rubble.

ELECTRICITY NEARLY 90% REESTABLISHED

As Jorge Luis Coteron, director of security and inspection at the National Electrical Union, informed Granma International, electricity services were 90% restored in City of Havana 48 hours after Hurricane Wilma had passed.

Coteron added that the situation in four capital municipalities was more complicated as they were the most badly damaged by sea flooding: Playa, Plaza de la Revolucion, Central Havana and Old Havana, where they hope to be able to restore the service on Friday (28).

The official explained that in the capital municipalities of Central and Old Havana, where the cables are underground, it was hoped to restore the service by Wednesday 26.

“From Tuesday when the sea began to retreat workers began to pump the water out of basements, afterwards the flooded places have to dry out and we have to verify all the protectors before the service can be restored,” he explained.

In the low-lying parts of Playa and Plaza de la Revolucion the service will be restored between Thursday and Friday, Coteron explained, because they were places very badly damaged by sea penetration.

“The water flooded many garages and basements in those municipalities, we have to wait until they have drained before beginning to check the state of all the meters and other cables in order to restore the electricity service,” the director confirmed, in relation to the security of those neighbors.

Coteron said that in the western province of Pinar del Río, also hard hit by Wilma, “Today, Tuesday (25), 85% of the service has been restored.” However, he added that in certain isolated areas where the repairs are more difficult, reestablishing the service will take around 48 hours longer.

He concluded that no problems had been recorded and the entire electricity service had been reestablished in the other provinces that suffered the lashing of Hurricane Wilma: the Isle of Youth, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara and Sancti Spíritus.

Meanwhile, in Habana province, neighboring the capital, electricity supplies were reestablished Tuesday night in its 19 municipalities, according to the director of the Basic Electricity Organization, Edel Gomez, who clarified that only 188 reports of interruptions in specific places had to be solved.

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