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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Culture

A week after Hurricane Wilma and Havana returns to normal

Posted November 02, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Culture.
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Granma.cu | BY RAISA PAGES —Granma International staff writer—

30,000 families living in areas that were inundated by the sea immediately received food, water and medical attention • Belongings of affected families being recovered

FIVE days after the sea flooded 9.5 square kilometers in the northern zone of Havana, the 100,000 individuals that live in this area already have their water, gas, and electrical services restored and are replacing their lost belongings.

Now that the worst has passed, the astonishing natural event and the immediate reaction by government authorities are recounted by Humberto Mollinedo, as his wife washes clothes dirtied by the sea. Mollinedo, a worker in the Mariel industrial zone, received a call from his wife on Monday morning October 24, asking him to come home because water was entering their apartment on 2nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Vedado. When he arrived, accompanied by a group of coworkers, he rushed to put the living room furniture and the family’s beds onto a scaffold. The television, video and stereo equipment were already safeguarded upstairs. But this family never imagined that the water would rise to the middle of their home’s wall.

Maritza Barredeche, who lives next door to Humberto, displayed a bed frame with a mattress destroyed by the sea. She lost several belongings because she had left her home to stay with family members and only secured her electrical appliances.

Emboldened by desperation, Angel Luis Parada, another resident of the area, took a wide plank of wood and began swimming toward his home in the dark in the middle of the night. When he arrived at his building on C Street, between First and Third Avenues, he saw that the water had risen above the roof of his garage-level apartment. Before leaving his house, he had put all his valuable items on a bunk bed, but he never thought that the flooding would be so severe. When the morning light allowed him to orient himself better, he gathered what he could and took it to the first floor of the building. He lost his television, mattress, and fans.

These folks, along with 100,000 other Havana residents in flooded areas, immediately received State assistance such as food, potable water, and health services and were also visited by social workers who took reports of lost belongings.

Angel Luis Parada, who swam in the dirty waters, was given medicine to prevent leptospiroris and those who suffered abrasions were given tetanus shots.

The residents of this zone whose cooking gas service was not immediately restored were lent electric stoves from the State’s reserves and were sold kerosene and alcohol for cooking food.

Angel Amador, vice president of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in the city of Havana, told Granma International that the rescue operation for individuals as well as material resources in five coastal municipalities involved more than 2,000 vehicles, 80 heavy equipment vehicles such as cranes and loaders, 770 generators, more than 500 communication devices, boats and other aquatic gear, provided through the valuable cooperation of the Ministry of Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.

In the capital, a total of 130,717 individuals were evacuated, including boarding students from other provinces and tourists, for whom 722 shelters and 246 food preparation centers were set up. Nearly 86% of those who had to leave their dwellings went to homes of family and friends, demonstrating the sense of community and solidarity of the Cuban people when faced with difficult times.

Around 11,000 health workersó doctors, nurses, technicians, community health activists, and Red Cross volunteersó were mobilized to attend to people in the most affected areas; 121 ambulances were used in this operation and more than 5,000 hospital beds were prepared for emergencies.

About 2,125 basements and underground storage tanks for water were contaminated by sea water and in many cases the residents took it upon themselves to sanitize them. Health personnel distributed water purification treatments and returned to evaluate the water quality.

Nearly 4,000 drains and around 500 gutters were cleaned out before the storm and 743 water filters and pipes were unclogged.

Throughout the capital 244 education centers were damaged, of which 40 were in the five coastal municipalities. Audiovisual equipment for schools including 11,192 computers and 17,724 televisions were protected, emphasized Amador. Classes reconvened on the 25th at undamaged facilities, and at the close of this edition, the problems of the remaining localities had already been resolved.

DAMAGES TO HOMES

Flooding caused damage to 2,456 dwellings, reported Amador, who said that specialized personnel had visited the five coastal municipalities to evaluate the damage. In this zone specifically, 28 roofs were lost and 473 were partially wrecked; 33 homes were completely destroyed while 390 were damaged to some extent.

In the rest of the capital’s municipalities 379 dwellings were reportedly affected of which 89 were left without roofs and 276 suffered partial damages. Another four properties totally collapsed and 10 partially fell.

The sea destroyed 306 meters of the containing wall lining the 6.7 kilometers of the Malecon, Havana’s seaside highway. Another 2,000 square meters of sidewalks and pavement buckled. Specialized teams of the Ministry of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior are working to repair this area.

The three tunnels of the city that pass below sea level are already open to the public after being completely filled with water.

Havana is rapidly returning to normal. The flooding surpassed all expectations and the coastal residents, after their adverse experience, know that the sea is unpredictable.

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