Monday, October 3, 2022

  Canadian Network on Cuba 

Hurricane Ian Relief Campaign 

How Cuba has reacted to Hurricane Ian

Dear  friend,

As you will have heard, Cuba has been battered by Hurricane Ian.  We've all seen the dramatic pictures in the news and I thought you’d like a first hand report from Cuba. 

First of all, everyone in Cubania is fine.  Some places still have no electricity and there's a big clean-up job to do.  Cubans know how to do this quite efficiently, it comes as part of the experience of living in Cuba, a country which is frequently battered by hurricanes.  
Hurricane Ian passed through Pinar del Rio province with winds of up to 195kph in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The eye of the storm went directly over Viñales, an important tourist destination, as well as battering other smaller towns and villages in this tobacco growing region.  
We heard from our friend Rachel whose organic farm is perched on the hill overlooking Viñales.  Her farm is well-known for growing the deliciously fresh produce served in their organic restaurant.  The farm has been battered and they have lost crops.   Pictures of the farm show crops crushed by strong winds.  

The tobacco fields, for which Pinar del Rio is so famous, are flooded and the delicate crop has been damaged.  
I spoke to Mayra yesterday.  She lives in the centre of Viñales, where the eye of the storm past and runs a casa particular, renting rooms to visitors who come to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Viñales Valley.   

Mayra told us that trees had been uprooted bringing down power lines as they fell, and that corrugated iron or thatched roofs had been blown away by the strong winds.   She talked of the damage done to farms like Rachel’s.   But she also said that most of the houses in central Viñales have tiled or cement roofs and that these are intact with minor or no damage at all.   When we spoke, they were waiting to be reconnected to the national power grid and she asked us to give them a few days to clear up the fallen trees and debris.  

She was confident that Viñales - in the worst affected area of Cuba - would be ready for business by the beginning of October.  Early next week.   
The entire country suffered a complete blackout on Tuesday when the country’s electrical generators failed.    This morning, Thursday, local news sources report that power has been restored to 72% of users including  Havana, Trinidad, Playa Larga, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Varadero and other destinations important to Cuba’s tourism.
No doubt, Hurricane Ian has done serious damage in parts of Cuba, but this is a country which is accustomed to dealing with hurricanes.  In fact the word hurricane comes from the Taino people, indigenous to Cuba  who used the word "huracane" to describe the evil power of strong winds.  They knew about hurricanes.

And we have a lot to learn from present day Cuban expertise when it comes to their systematic approach to preparing for hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.   
The country is well known in the area for its Civil Defense System, established in 1966, which successfully harnesses the social power of the revolution for relief and rescue operations during and after natural disasters. It coordinates annual drills on a national level, promotes education and oversees communication, from early warnings and emergency alarms to forced evacuations before storms strike followed by guidance for recovery afterward.
More than 70,000 Cubans were evacuated from their homes prior to Hurricane Ian hitting Cuban territory.  They have all be returned to their homes and the clean-up operation has started.  Most of the debris and fallen trees will have been swept up by this weekend.   
The Civil Defense System has created an innate culture of hurricanes, resilience and safety, ensuring that the population is aware of the country’s risk reduction system, educated in risk consciousness and disaster mitigation, able to use the lifeline structures in an emergency and actively participate in disaster preparation and the clean-up operation after a hurricane. 
If you’re travelling to Cuba over the next few weeks, you may see some of the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, especially if you travel to Pinar del Rio.   But be ready to admire the resilience of Cuba too, a country which has picked itself up, cleaned up the mess and started normal life again.  
We look forward to welcoming you soon! 
Un abrazo from Lucy and all the Cubania Team 



Cubania Travel