HAVANA TIMES — Last year, I was destined to meet Hurricane Otto in Panama. The hurricane never entered Panamanian territory and it was tiny in comparison to the one heading towards Cuba this week, but it still left 9 people dead in that country alone.
One of the victims was a 9-year-old boy. Ethan Jimenez died in his school’s entrance when a giant tree fell on top of him while he was waiting to go in. It was only after this lethal accident that the Ministry of Education decided to suspend classes.
At our hotel, we tried to get in touch with national media like we normally do here in Cuba during these events, but government accounts weren’t being broadcast, there were only journalists’ speculations, some formed with certain logic while others were completely ridiculous.
With the hurricane on Panamanian shores, the Free Zone opened up its doors without taking any measures. At midday, rumor started going around saying that stores would shut, some did and others didn’t. Hours went by before the order reached everyone.
Right now, while we wait for Hurricane Irma, I’m glad to be living in Cuba, where the Civil Defense units have pre-established protocols which don’t leave room for people to improvise and every citizen knows what they are doing amidst these emergencies.
A nation which doesn’t skimp on resources to prevent the loss of lives, where tens of thousands of people open up their homes to those who need it, where public institutions serve as shelters and all transport is put to the task of evacuating people.
If only this civic protection system is one of the things that endures in time. If only this country could share its experiences with other countries within the region. I hope Cuba can be just as effective, as it always is, in the face of Irma’s gale forces.