Hurricane Charley caused losses in excess of one billion dollars

Campaign News | Friday, 27 August 2004

More than 70,000 homes totally or partially destroyed

BY ANETT RIOS JAUREGUI-Granma daily staff writer-

August 26: DURING an Informative Roundtable on Cuban TV Pedro Sáez Montejo, first secretary of the Party in City of Havana, quantified the damage inflicted on Cuba by Hurricane Charley at more than one billion dollars, a figure that could grow even larger.

Of the 73,584 homes affected, 4,177 were completely destroyed. In the photo, a man looks for something among the rubble left by the hurricane.

Sáez noted that Charley’s significant impact on the economy of the western part of the island can principally be summed up by its damage to more than 70,000 homes and thousands of hectares of cultivated land, plus grave effects on the electricity (1,400 poles, 28 high-tension towers and 291 transformers brought down), water and telephone services. In the two Havana provinces the damage includes 798 educational centers, 312 health centers, 60 sports installations and 63 cultural ones.

More than 31,000 homes in the capital were affected, 469 of them being totally destroyed. Juan Contino, president of the city government, stated that 852 people are still in temporary accommodation. He estimated that more than 8,000 trees were brought down and more than 500,000 cubic meters of rubble collected, but the volume is enormous and the task is not as yet over. There will be another popular mobilization next weekend to continue with this labor.

Iván Ordaz, first secretary of the Party in Habana province, said that there are still 12,690 evacuees, and an estimated 3,127 economic installations and 41,236 homes damaged. Communications have been restored in 6,000 of the approximately 8,150 services affected, while 48% of consumers in the province have power.

Hurricane Charley: Cuba insulted by US offer of $50,000 aid


US offer is unacceptable

ON August 13, just when our people had initiated recovery efforts in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Charley, Richard Boucher, acting spokesman for the U.S. State Department, issued a press release announcing that the United States laments the damages caused by Hurricane Charley and expresses its solidarity with the Cuban people.

With total cynicism and hypocrisy, the State Department statement continued as follows, “The Cuban people can count on the support of the United States during these difficult times. We are working to help the Cuban people with the humanitarian crisis that it is confronting today."

As yet another demonstration of the empire’s disdain towards our country and its people, Mr. Boucher announced that the U.S. Interests Section would hand out the ridiculous and humiliating sum of $50,000 from U.S. government funds, with the objective of “attending to the humanitarian needs of the Cuban people.”

Finally, in a shameless manner, the spokesman urged the Cuban government to permit the delivery of this aid directly to the Cuban people.

Subsequently, on August 16, Mr. James Cason, head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, told the North American director of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he had a fund of $50,000, an amount available to U.S. embassies elsewhere in the world for aid during natural disasters and other emergencies, and that he wished to deliver it to various “independent” non-governmental Cuban organizations to help confront damages left by the cyclone.

The U.S. official received a firm response in which this new affront was totally rejected.

At this time, it was also indicated to Cason that it was extremely cynical to offer an irrelevant sum of money when that government is trying to economically strangle the entire Cuban people via its criminal blockade of our country.

Because we have been entirely immersed in recovery efforts after the damages left by the hurricane, we opted to keep this issue at diplomatic level. Nevertheless, the fact that some international press agencies have reflected the Cuban position with respect to this issue more or less accurately has obliged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to publicly confirm that for the Cuban people and government this offer is totally unacceptable, as it shamelessly ignores the damage caused over more than four decades by the economic warfare of successive administrations against our country.

It is obvious that the U.S. government is suffering from total amnesia, given that there is no other way to understand how it can attempt to assume the role of “benefactor” of the Cuban people, when it has just reinforced - once again - its cruel blockade by bringing into force numerous restrictions to the extent of affecting relations between Cuban citizens and their families resident in the United States.

The aforementioned U.S. government intention to place these resources into the hands of “organizations independent” of the Cuban government, clearly reveals the shady purposes of this maneuver, which have nothing to do with any genuine interest in the well-being of the hurricane victims.

Cuba will not accept any supposed aid from the government of a country that is attacking us and attempting to bring us to our knees through hunger and need.

Cuba will move forwards through the efforts and dedication of its people and its Revolution.

No Cuban has been - or ever will be - left unprotected in the wake of a natural disaster or other emergency, whatever its nature or magnitude. The humanism and solidarity of the project that we defend would not allow that.

Havana, August 21, 2004

Cuba 'insulted' by US offer

Havana August 22 - Cuba on Sunday slammed the US offer of $50 000 in disaster assistance to help recovery efforts from Hurricane Charley as "totally unacceptable," calling the amount an insult to the hundreds of thousands of Cubans hit by the storm.

"The offer of $50 000, and above all its obvious political manipulation, is a new insult and a new offense to the hundreds of thousands of Cuban families who suffered damages in this natural disaster," the foreign ministry said in a statement published in the online edition of the Juventud Rebelde newspaper.

"The island's people and government find totally unacceptable this cynical and hypocritical offer by the United States government to ease the effects of Hurricane Charley," it said.

The US on August 13 offered $50 000 dollars in disaster assistance and urged US-based humanitarian groups to send aid to the island after Hurricane Charley tore roofs off houses, uprooted trees and downed power lines.

The State Department called the offer "a symbolic gesture.",,2-10-1462_1576966,00.html


BY JOAQUIN ORAMAS of Granma International

SOMETHING caught the attention of the people, used to confronting heavy tropical storms. That was when Dr. José Rubiera, head of the Forecasting Department at the Institute of Meteorology, qualified Hurricane Charley, about to enter Cuba via the southwestern coast of Habana province, as a very bad phenomenon.

Although it passed over the island’s territory more quickly than others of its kind, it concentrated a terrible force around the eye of the storm, according to President Fidel Castro, who went to the Meteorological Institute at dawn on August 13 to obtain details of the hurricane.

The forecast was confirmed shortly afterwards. The first gusts of the gales reaching more than 180 kilometers per hour that lashed Habana province made themselves felt at approximately 1:30 a.m. thus proving Rubiera right. During its voyage over the Caribbean Sea from the south of Jamaica the atmospheric phenomenon incremented its force and on leaving Cuba its winds exceeded 250 kilometers per hour in the Gulf of Mexico, where it hit Florida, causing 20 deaths, hundreds wounded and losses totaling billions of dollars.

In the rural areas that it traversed close to the Cuban beaches of Canimar and Cajío, which towns it destroyed, Charley brought down everything in its path, uprooting centennial trees, while some families whose houses were blown apart sought refuge under tables, beds and cookers or inside closets and cupboards, not daring to take a step given the fury of the winds. In the approximately two hours of its crossing the narrowest part of the island, from the southwest of Habana province to the northwest of the country’s capital, the damage was enormous, despite measures adopted under the directions of the Civil Defense, which included securing homes, centers of production and services, the removal of vessels to safe places, and the evacuation of thousands of people living in vulnerable areas - mainly those exposed to sea, river, reservoir or lake flooding or as a consequence of the rains.

The force of the wind provoked damage to and the destruction of some 20,000 homes and other buildings, brought down thousands of wooden posts and cement and metal towers - many of them weighing 60 tons - and electrical transmission and distribution lines, paralyzing operations at the Máximo Gómez thermoelectric plant in Mariel, in the north of Habana province.

That situation resulted in an interruption of electricity, water and gas services for several days in a large section of Habana, City of Havana and Pinar del Río provinces. The unofficial calculation is that more than one million people were affected by the natural phenomenon, whose damage was gradually repaired throughout the following week and subsequently. Supplies of electricity, water and gas are virtually back to normal as a result of the labors of brigades of linesmen in the affected areas and from other provinces. Telephone services have been restored to some 12,000 users affected by the hurricane.

In parallel, brigades from Public Works with the population and workers from different enterprises collected more than 250,000 tons of rubble, thousands of felled trees in the streets and highways in the cities and towns hit by Charley.

On Saturday August 21 and 22 thousands of citizens convened by the Communist Party and mass organizations are to clear up the remains of the more than 6,300 trees brought down in City of Havana. Some 66,000 tons of citrus fruits were left on the ground in Habana province, other crops were lost, and more than 280 cattle milking sheds lost their roofs, although the herds were protected, and more than 3,000 agricultural installations were damaged, along with industrial constructions and those of other sectors.

Thanks to the measures adopted there were only five fatal victims: three due to collapsing structures, another from damage caused to his home by a fallen palm tree and one person drowned. The solidarity of the population was a very important factor in ensuring that nobody would be left without shelter under the lashing of the cyclone as some of the persons evacuated stayed in the homes of friends and neighbors living in stronger brick houses located in safe areas.

At the same time, the evacuation forces were on the alert to avoid families who did not wish to abandon their homes suffering grave consequences despite the danger they were running. That was the case in Surgidero de Batabanó, a few kilometers distant from the hurricane’s entry on the southern coast of Habana, where sea flooding threatened their lives, at which point they were finally transferred to a safe place.

“We have the resources to confront the hurricane damage,” announced Vice President Carlos Lage, who advocated them being distributed rapidly after needs were identified. And that was what happened with the initial strategy of restoring the basic public services, repairing homes and other buildings affected via the distribution of resources and guaranteeing the care of the population. In the first week 1,400 houses were repaired. One of the principal efforts is aimed at the planting a large area of short-cycle green and root vegetables in Habana province.

At the same time the constant labor of company and local brigades in municipalities damaged by the action of the hurricane made itself felt in terms of alleviating the situation. In the city of Pinar del Río, various technical teams set up zones of power to guarantee an electricity service to hospitals and food preparation centers. They also set up public televisions to keep residents informed on the works underway to restore the situation created by the storm. A similar installation was organized in the Pinar del Río José Martí station, which generated electricity for the towns of San Cristóbal and Candelaria, among others.

It has always been reiterated in Cuba that nobody will be left homeless in the face of natural disasters or those of any nature. That commitment is becoming a reality once again.


A report by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Information Unit

At Playa Cajío, a fishermen’s village on Havana Province’s Southern Coast, only two of the 208 buildings survived the hurricane winds

Hurricane CHARLEY struck the Cuban provinces of Havana and City of Havana on the early hours of 13 August, 2004. This area of Cuba is home to some 2,5 million persons -one fifth of Cuba’s total population-- and comprises some of the country’s best agricultural lands and most important industries.

The Cuban Weather Bureau and Civil Defense had offered early warning notices of the vicious nature of this mayor storm and some 250 thousand persons were evacuated to safety.

CHARLEY entered the Southern coast of the Western portion of Havana province as a class II hurricane at 00.10 hours 13 August, and cut a path of destruction on its way North. Its eye gained the seas north of Cuba at 01:50 hours EDT, at a point due east of Playa Baracoa, on the western-most limit between the provinces of Havana and City of Havana (please see map).

The storm caused very severe damages in coastal villages in both the Southern and Northern coasts of Western Cuba. The Guanímar and Cajío fishing villages, in the South, were totally wiped out by giant waves and swirling winds. Their population had been evacuated to safety hours before, but they lost all their belongings.

In the North, the resort coastal villages of Santa Fe and Playa Baracoa also sustained very heavy damages. On its way north, the hurricane played havoc in the rural towns of Guira de Melena, San Antonio de los Baños, Alquízar and Bauta.

As it passed Guira de Melena and San Antonio de los Baños, towns noted for the extreme high quality of their produce, including some of the world?s best tobacco leaf wrappings for cigars, winds of 180 kilometers an hour, gusting to 210/220 kilometers, were registered at a nearby airport. Bauta, another rural town on the path of the storn, was almost destroyed by the hurricane force winds.

The winds destroyed banana plantations, felled fruit trees, destroyed homes and other communal installations along its path, and caused very heavy damages in several industrial plants, educational and health institutions and local, provincial and central government offices.

Very important damages were sustained by agriculture. Hundreds of hectares planted to bananas were destroyed by the winds. Even edible root plantations, such as yucca, were heavily damaged. Citrus plantations were stripped of fruit. Tens of thousands of mango, guava and avocado trees were felled and their fruit lost.

Very severe damages were inflicted on the electrical and telephone systems. The hurricane felled hundreds of utility poles and at least 26 huge power transmission towers, each one of them valued at 50,000 dollars. The huge power plant at Mariel, in Western Cuba, was cut off from the nation’s electricity system and ceased supplying its 400 megawatt generating capacity.

As a result, the western province of Pinar del Rio has been cut from the nation’s electrical supply and service has been curtailed in the neighboring city of Havana. Almost 2.5 million people had their electricity service discontinued. The piped water and gas systems were also severely crippled, but service has been progressively restored through emergency generators.

According to the latest information from Civil Defense, some 40,500 homes were heavily damaged, and 8,300 of them are a total loss.

As of noon 16 August, only 6,230 persons of the quarter of a million intially evacuated remained at Government-provided shelters. The safety measures conducted by Cuba’s Civil Defense led to a very low level of human casualties. Despite its virulence, the storm caused four dead and five injured.

Hundreds of wooden bungalows on the water front were destroyed by the winds and the storm surge. This home lied on Baracoa Beach, in Cuba’s capital city.

As this report is being issued, more than 1 million persons still lack electricity and running water. Relief power company teams from Central and Eastern Cuba have rushed to the affected area and are working along with the area’s crews.

26 mayor high voltage pylons have to be replaced, as well as hundreds of utility poles, many of them crushed by fallen trees, which have also to be cleared.

Urban and provincial transport services have been partially restored as Havana’s streets and avenues and surrounding areas are being cleared of trees and debris. This task is enormous, and despite efforts some areas are going to wait at least two weeks before power is restored.

The local governments supported by the Central Administration have mobilized tanker fleets to provide drinking water to communities. Food is also being provided to vulnerable groups, and special efforts are being made by the nation’s health system to prevent disease outbreaks.

The UN Resident Coordinator is leading UN System concerns and efforts in support of Cuba and close contacts are being held with Civil Defense and our Government counterparts.

More information will be provided as it becomes available. adp

Havana, Cuba, 16 August 2004

Havana without water

HAVANA August 17 - City workers distributed water in tanker trucks and urged some 1.4 million residents of the Cuban capital with no running water on Monday to remain calm four days after Hurricane Charley roared through the area.

A government official in a car with loudspeakers on the roof urged residents to conserve water and said it could take several days to restore services to 70 percent of the city with no water.

The Aguas de La Habana water company said the hurricane had disrupted power supplies needed to pump water into the city of 2 million from outlying areas and eight Havana districts were without running water.

Engineers worked to rebuild eight high-voltage towers knocked down by Charley outside a thermoelectric power plant at the port of Mariel that feeds Havana and the western province of Pinar del Rio.

In the hillside El Cerro district, residents complained they had been without water and electricity since late last Thursday.

Charley hit Cuba with 105-mph winds, killing four people and damaging 40,000 homes when it barreled through Havana province and the western side of Havana on Friday.

Havana, August 16 (Radio Havana Cuba)-- Three days after Hurricane Charley hit western Cuba, residents continue cleaning up and working to get all services re-established throughout the affected areas. Despite 'round-the-clock efforts by brigades of workers from other cities and provinces, electrical power in several areas of Havana has still not been restored.

According to officials, one of the biggest problems has been repairing high-voltage lines that were downed by the hurricane-force winds near Mariel, located west of the capital. Those lines supplied power to many neighborhoods in Havana and almost the entire western-most province of Pinar del Río. Officials say that another two days are needed to fully restore power in the affected areas of the capital and crews are working uninterruptedly in Pinar del Río.

The municipal water supply has also been affected in many areas of Havana, primarily due to the lack of electricity to pump the water into local cisterns. Over the weekend, some 80 tanker trucks began hauling water to hospitals and educational centers in downtown Havana and suburban areas of the Cuban capital.

According to the latest figures, more than 10,000 trees were downed in Havana and workers are laboring 24-hours-a-day to clear streets and parks of fallen branches and entire trees uprooted by Friday's powerful storm. In Havana alone, more than 10,300 houses were partially damaged and 383 were totally destroyed.

Agricultural officials report heavy damage to the island's crops, especially banana plantations -- estimated to have suffered a 95 percent loss in the Province of Havana. Other crops suffering considerable damage: corn, mangoes, grapefruit and other citrus fruits.

Havana, August 14 (Radio Havana Cuba)- Though final reports on the damages caused by Hurricane Charley are still not yet in, preliminary information indicates considerable damage to the electrical system, homes and communications in the western part of the island and the deaths of four people.

Cuba's National Civil Defense reported on Saturday that four people died in Havana province and five were injured, one of whom is in serious condition.

Officials report hundreds of downed high tension towers, cables and transformers which has made it impossible to re-establish electrical service to the majority who have been without light, cooking gas and water since late Thursday night. The city and province of Havana were hardest hit and the entire province of Pinar del Rio was still without electrical power and or communications on Saturday.

Hurricane Charley inflicted the most damage on the Havana province towns of Batabano, Playa Cajio and Bauta, as well as on San Cristobal, Candelaria and Bahia Honda in Pinar del Rio. The coastal town of Mariel was also hard hit.

The more than two million residents of the city of Havana have been the most affected by the lack of electricity, cooking gas and water and officials say it may take several more days to reestablish power to 100 per cent of the capital's inhabitants. Local authorities are working along with experts from other provinces to guarantee the basic needs of the population. Tanker trucks are providing water to many of those still without.

This morning authorities reported that in the city of Havana 140 homes were totally destroyed by the storm and another 767 were partially affected. There are also reports of damages to many schools, daycare centers and health clinics. The figures are expected to rise. In Havana province, 989 homes totally collapsed and 9 thousand residences suffered some kind of damage.

Just before Charley's arrival to the southwestern part of the island early Friday morning, government authorities evacuated some 215 thousand people and more than 158 thousand farm animals were transferred to a safer area.

Hurricane Charley hit the western part of the island with heavy rains and maximum winds of 165 kilometers per hour with gusts of up to 200 kilometers per hour.

Friday morning after Hurricane Charley had battered the island, Cuban Vice President, Carlos Lage, visited families whose homes were damaged by the storm and assured them that their residences will be repaired as quickly as possible.

Making his way through the streets that were partially blocked by fallen trees and power lines, the Cuban official visited the most affected Havana municipalities of Playa and La Lisa, to assess the damage caused to homes, businesses and community installations.

Lage instructed local authorities to draft an accurate report of the damages and list priorities in order to immediately begin working on solutions for each case.

From Granma International

Havana August 14: WHILE it was still not possible to definitively quantify the magnitude of the damage left in the wake of Hurricane Charley that hit the island on Saturday August 14, preliminary evaluations indicated that considerable harm was done to the electric system and housing, according to a report in Cuba's Granma weekly review.

According to a spokesman for Cuba's National General Staff of the Civil defense, the following deaths were reported: in Havana province, Jesús Rosado Méndez, of Alquízar (when a palm tree fell on his house and it collapsed); Ivá Núñez Díaz, of Güira de Melena (when a building collapsed); Juan José Figueroa Alonso, of Mariel (drowned) and Jesús Suárez Sanz, of San Antonio de los Baños, (when a tobacco shed collapsed), while five people were reported injured in the capital, one of them seriously.

More than 215,000 people were evacuated from the most dangerous areas, of which only 35,749 were housed in shelters, given that the rest went to the houses of relatives, neighbors and friends, showing once again the spirit of solidarity of the Cuban people in times of catastrophe.

Efforts to repair damage to high-tension wires, posts, cables and transformers - essential materials to reestablish electric service to the city of Havana, the province of Havana and Pinar del Río Province, are being checked daily by representatives of the country’s leadership, the Ministry of Basic Industry and the National Electric Company at every level.

On Sunday, Víctor Puentes Monto, director of Nacional Regulation, told Juventud Rebelde that "in the case of the city of Havana, the provincial Electric Compnay director, Rosell Guerra, informed that of the city’s 224 circuits, 159 now have electricity. The other 65 are pending."

By 7 a.m. Saturday, some 10,381 houses had been affected by Charley’s passing, and 383 of them had totally collapsed, according to Juan Carlos Cruz, provincial director of the Unit of Housing Investment in Havana.

The water supply situation has improved within the last 24 hours, according Alfredo Pérez, provincial delegate of the Ministry of Hydraulic Resources in Havana. All water sources were reestablished in the eastern section of the city, some in the south, and in the municipality of Cotorro, he told JR. The most critical problems are in the central-western area, he said, given that the electricity was yet to be reestablished for the Sur, El Rincón and Los Meireles reservoirs.

In the Province of Havana, there were at least 989 buildings that were totally destroyed, and 1,020 partially destroyed, and 9,000 other houses suffered damage. In Pinar del Río, Havana Province and the city of Havana, some 502 schools were damaged.

| top | back | home |
Share on FacebookTweet this