It is too soon to know exactly what material damage was caused by Hurricane Paloma, the third hurricane of great intensity to hit us in less than 10 weeks during the present hurricane season, but, facing this new blow dealt by nature, we Cubans can affirm that it is fortunate that we have a Revolution. Nobody died because, as usual, nobody was left unprotected.
Gustav and Ike provoked total losses of $8.6 billion and destroyed approximately half a million homes. Now come the ravages of Paloma, which made landfall in the southern Camagüey municipality of Santa Cruz del Sur, leaving in its wake the most visible effects of gales, intense rainfall, and sea flooding.
The Chief of Staff of the Civil Defense has established the recovery phase for the municipalities of Santa Cruz del Sur and Najasa de Guámaro. Rescue work is beginning in those areas, while the rest of Cuba has returned to normality; that implies, among other basic questions, the safe and orderly return of evacuees.
Nationwide, more than 1.2 million inhabitants were evacuated, almost 18% of them (around 200,000) into 1,448 shelters, and the rest in homes of family or friends, in the habitual gesture of solidarity.
In less than 48 hours, during the evacuation to state facilities offering provisional shelter, 4,000-plus vehicles and 13 trains were used, as well as 500 engineering machines and communications technology.
Once again, homes have suffered much damage. In Santa Cruz del Sur, for example, destroyed homes were all too visible, as well as the loss of personal items, from cooking utensils, clothing, and furniture to new electrical-domestic goods. To a lesser degree, there are similar reports from the Camagüey municipality of Najasa and Amancio Rodríguez in Las Tunas province.
Large areas were left without electricity. In the field of communications, initially, two municipalities, Santa Cruz del Sur and Amancio Rodríguez, lost their connection although alternatives were brought into service. There is also damage to the road networks, above all on the southern coasts of Camagüey and Las Tunas, according to yesterday’s TV Roundtable.
The strength of the national Civil Defense system was once again evident, plus the capacity of the Defense Councils at all levels to anticipate, organize, and direct in situations of national emergency: a training that is likewise fruit of the Revolution.
While we do not have to lament the loss of life, the effects of Hurricane Paloma should not be underestimated; in addition to direct losses suffered by families and state activities, the significant cost of evacuating and protecting people (transport, accommodation, meals, etc) has to be included, and income lost in fundamental sectors like tourism, due to cancelled flights and interrupted services, although all facilities are ready to receive visitors during the high tourism season that is about to begin.
Moreover, it should be taken into account that in order to avoid greater consequences many productive centers also temporally closed down and agriculture has been hard hit.
All of the above underlines the importance of dedication to productive work and services, as Fidel urged in his most recent Reflections, as only in that way can we make an appropriate response to the current adverse circumstances.
Translated by Granma International. This article first appeared in Granma International on 10 November 2008.