For 500,000 victims of Hurricane Sandy
HAVANA TIMES — The World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it will provide immediate assistance to half a million people in Cuba after Hurricane Sandy caused major devastation to the east of the island, reported DPA news.
The assistance will focus mainly in the province of Santiago de Cuba, the most affected by the storm. The infrastructure of Cuba’s second largest city is still partially collapsed, including a lack of power for 80% of the population, nearly two weeks after the hurricane swept through the Caribbean.
The food rations are for one month, stated the WFP. “We are coordinating with the Cuban authorities and the rest of the UN network to find the best way to respond to this disaster that has left many people homeless and in need of help,” said Emergency Coordinator, William Vigil.
According to WFP, “Sandy” is possibly the most destructive hurricane of the past 50 years in eastern Cuba. A preliminary assessment of the Havana government shows some 200,000 damaged homes and one million people affected by the cyclone.
At least 11 people were killed in the provinces of Santiago and Guantanamo. Besides Santiago, Holguin province was also hard hit. The hurricane left nearly 70 people dead in the Caribbean and more than a hundred in the eastern United States.
WFP also expressed concern about the damage to Cuban agriculture. The eastern provinces grow coffee, plantains and many other important crops for domestic consumption.
To date the government has yet to release overall statistics on the economic damage caused by Sandy. In addition to ravaging the eastern provinces, the hurricane also caused flooding and heavy rainfall in the center of the island, noted DPA.
Raul Castro’s government has mobilized massive material and worker aid to the eastern provinces. UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called Castro last Friday to express condolences and offer support from the funds and programs of the United Nations, said Granma newspaper.
The authorities have called on the population of Havana to make donations to help the victims in the east of the country. Also Cuban opposition groups have organized small collections to support the eastern provinces.
The largest amount of aid received to date has come from the government of Venezuela which has sent assistance to Cuba by sea and air. Also Russia, Ecuador and Bolivia have sent donations to help with the recovery.