Hurricane Gustav devastates 90,000 homes

Campaign News | Tuesday, 2 September 2008

BY RONALD SUÁREZ RIVAS for Granma International

A single figure illustrates the magnitude of the problem. Hurricane Gustav damaged almost as many homes here as the 14 hurricanes that have hit this province in the last eight years in their totality.

Over that period, 102,000 homes in Pinar del Rio - 45% of all housing - were damaged to some extent.

According to preliminary estimates, 90,000 were affected this time without counting the municipality of Bahía Honda, which was still cut off from communication on the evening of Monday, September 1.

The worst devastation was in the eastern half of the province, with Los Palacios in the most critical situation. According to a report from the Municipal Defense Council, 10,000 of 13,000 homes were affected, and 6,000 collapsed completely.

Neighboring municipalities were in a similar situation. San Cristóbal, for example, has reported 11,000 homes damaged so far.

Teams of experts from the Ministry of Housing have been making a case-by-case assessment since Monday the 1st to get an accurate picture of the situation and what is needed for rebuilding.

Construction materials continued to arrive as did specialized teams of workers from other provinces, mostly carpenters and roofers.

Authorities ordered immediate distribution of resources to the families affected. It was also decided to give as much priority possible to the least complicated cases to avoid lesser damage becoming larger as a result of delays.

State facilities were also severely damaged.

As of the evening of the 1st, no losses had been reported of computers, televisions, VCRs or other audiovisual equipment, confirming the effectiveness of preventive measures. However, 503 schools were damaged.

“Mostly it was damage to walls and woodwork,” said Angel López, provincial education director. “We have appealed to our workers to begin putting the schools into shape and to aim to start classes on the 8th.”

Obviously, however, it will not be possible for the school year - already delayed for one week - to begin on that date in some places. The Defense Council has instructed staff at each school to evaluate their situation.

Given this complex situation, the Provincial Bureau of the Communist Party has called on the people of Pinar del Rio to take on the challenge of rebuilding their province with the same determination that has always characterized them, this time in face of a much greater phenomenon.

Translated by Granma International

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