By Guillermo Nova
HAVANA TIMES – Hurricane “Matthew” a category four storm with winds above 220 kilometers per hour, caused no casualties among the Cuban population due to the excellent civil defense effort. However, many people lost everything in the municipalities of Baracoa, Maisi, Imías and San Antonio del Sur, in the eastern province of Guantanamo, reported dpa.
“The blow was very strong, but we will bounce back,” said Cuban President Raul Castro, while visiting Maisi, the hardest hit town.
Initially after the passing of Matthew, emergency workers were unable to reach Maisi with support services because the roads were block. They then resorted to using an army helicopter.
After opening the road, the outlook was bleak. Of a housing stock of nearly 9,000 homes, most of them have been were damaged, while dozens are seen in ruins, said the official newspaper “Granma”.
Before his arrival in Maisi, Raul Castro visited Baracoa, the first village founded on the island by the Spanish conquistadors in 1511, and now devastated by the hurricane with roofless structures and collapsed houses.
According to the Cuban government, the greatest damage is in housing and other infrastructure, agriculture and food stocks.
The Castro government says it will finance half the expenditure on construction materials to those whose homes were damaged by the hurricane. How the families will put together their half is another story. Many lost their source of employment and even when employed barely earn enough to buy food.
Some aid was on the way from Venezuela, Cuba’s closest economic and political ally. Trucks, mortars and cement mixers and up to 20 thousand square meters of roofing are part of the shipment.
For its part, the World Food Program (WFP) in coordination with the Cuban authorities today announced the start of the delivery of foodstuffs to meet the needs of 180,000 people in the areas most affected by the hurricane.
The operation of WFP assistance will begin with the delivery of rice and beans to the entire population of the four most impacted municipalities during the next six months.
Some religious organizations made a call to pick for their members to gather clothing, canned food or money to buy building materials for the victims.
“We do not distinguish in the delivery, help is for those who need it,” Alida Leon, president of the Evangelical League of Cuba told dpa.
Another initiative is the Cuban Journalists Association to collect things needed by colleagues suffering losses from the hurricane, the aid program is called “journalist to journalist.”
As aid begins to arrive for the victims, they are gradually repairing infrastructure damaged. In Baracoa work to restore electricity is expected to last more than a month.
The state electric company sent some 2,000 workers to restore this basic service to the affected municipalizes, since most of the light poles were knocked down by the ravages of the hurricane.