Cuba resists Hurricanes Charley and Ivan
Campaign News | Thursday, 16 September 2004
UN praises Cuba's strategy against hurricanes
Havana, September 15 (RHC)-Cuba's ability to resist hurricanes Charley and Ivan in the space of a month, is a sign that the island can successfully meet any catastrophe, according to Wednesday's edition of Granma newspaper.
A front-page article states that by facing these natural disasters, Cuban authorities and the population have demonstrated that they are not only trained to face disasters but they express solidarity in order to prevent loss of life.
The article stresses that the fact that Cuba reported no human losses after Hurricane Ivan roared over the westernmost tip of the island, is a positive achievement.
The Cuban newspaper praises the organizing capacity of the country regarding its preparations prior to the hurricane and its recovery process.
Meanwhile, the province most affected by Hurricane Ivan, Pinar del Rio, is now in the recovery phase though on Wednesday afternoon an alert was still in effect due to more floods that are expected in the wake of intense rains.
After Hurricane Ivan threatened to plow through the island's center, it barely grazed the tip of western Pinar del Rio province where it caused considerable damage, but no deaths or injures.
Currently in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Ivan is now menacing the south-eastern portion of the United States.
Meanwhile, another danger, Tropical Storm Jeanne, is looming over Puerto Rico and meteorologists say that it will soon become a hurricane.
The Dominican Republic and St. Kitts and Nevis have declared a hurricane alert as Jeanne approaches.
UN Institution Praises Cuba's Strategy Against Hurricanes
Havana, September 14 (RHC) -The Director of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Salvano Briceño has held out Cuba as a model for developing nations on facing hurricanes./
AIN News Agency reported that in a communiqué published on Tuesday in Geneva, the UN official noted that Cuba's system against hurricanes could be applied to other nations with similar economic conditions and even to those with more resources.
The UN directive listed statistics and recalled that in 1998 Hurricane Georges inflicted only four deaths on the island while killing 600 in other regional nations.
Just a month ago, said the UN official, Hurricane Charley was the cause of 30 deaths in Florida and only four in Cuba.
Among the reasons for the difference, said Salvano Briceño, are preparations to face natural disasters, prevention, a response capacity as part of general education, permanent information given to the population and systematic exercises, among other action plans.
For the UN official, National Civil Defense and the National Weather Center are the key institutions in preventing damages and human losses in the case of hurricanes. He also underscored the precision and continued upgrading of plans in case of catastrophes.
Regarding Cuba, Briceno noted that every participant is clear of its role and local authorities are aware of their special needs and how to assist the most vulnerable.
Cuba is an example of the importance of political commitment and the vulnerability of the people can be effectively reduced with low cost measures and determination, said the Director of the International Strategy For the Disaster Reduction, Salvano Briceño.
Finally, the UN official noted that the Cuban experience and the model that the island represents, should be analyzed and promoted at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction to be held next January in Japan.
Ivan Leaves no Deaths or Injuries in Cuba, Britain pledges aid
Havana, 14 September (AIN) It is premature to evaluate the real extent of the damage left by Hurricane Ivan on Cuba, but the best news is that no deaths or injuries are being reported in the wake of the storm, stressed the panelists in this Tuesday’s edition of the nationally televised “The Round Table” program.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Development Secretary Hilary Benn, told Parliament that Britian would send aid to Cuba if it was required.
The discipline and solidarity of the Cuban people were fundamental for the achievement of preventing deaths, as well as the political willingness of Cuban authorities, an example of which was the presence of Cuban Leader Fidel Castro overseeing relief efforts in the areas with greatest risks during the storm, noted the panelists on TV.
A report from the French news agency AFP read on the program stated that diplomats accredited in Havana coincided in saying that the level of mobilization of the island’s residents before
Ivan struck is impossible to be organized in a developed nation.Meanwhile, another story carried by the Spanish News Agency,
EFE, stated that on Tuesday, the United Nations praised Cuba's performance in hurricane preparedness, saying it could serve as
a model to other nations on how to manage a looming disaster.
According to the report, the director of the Geneva-based U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Salvano Briceno,
said: ``the Cuban way could easily be applied to other countries with similar economic conditions, and even in countries with greater resources that do not manage to protect their population as well as Cuba does.”
During the last 12 days of intensive storm activity, nearly 1.9 million of the nation's 11.2 million people were evacuated. 78% of them found lodging in the homes of neighbors, friends, and relatives. Panelists and people interviewed in the western province of
Pinar del Rio province, the most affected by the hurricane, commented on how the government spared no efforts to protect all
Journalists in Pinar said the province is already working to return to normality.
Reportedly, the storm severely damaged the vegetation of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula Biosphere Reserve, and electricity poles. But help is on the way, and over 500 electricity workers from other regions of the island are already on site to aid their local colleagues in restoring the electricity network.
Britain pledged emergency aid to Cuba on Tuesday as Hurricane Ivan, which has killed at least 71 people in the Caribbean, left part of the island battered and hurtled on towards the United States coast.
"Initial reports suggest that it has only affected the far west and south west of the island, which had been evacuated," International Development Secretary Hilary Benn said in a statement in parliament.
"There are reports of flooding," Benn said. "We are ready to provide assistance if required."
Ivan Passes Near Cuba’s Western Tip
Havana, Sep 14 (Prensa Latina) Ivan passed by the Yucatán Stretch last night and into the Gulf of Mexico, wrecking power lines, uprooting trees, flooding coast towns in Pinar del Rio and sending heavy rains on both Havana provinces and the Isle of Youth.
Considered now the fiercest hurricane to hit this country in the last half a century, and in spite of the heavy damage it left behind, Cubans felt relieved when they heard at midnight that the storm was moving away from the island.
According to the Forecast Center of the Cuban Institute of Meteorology, the category 5 hurricane was located at 22.1 degrees latitude North and 85.5 degrees longitude West, at about 35 miles off Cape San Antonio, the westernmost tip of Cuba.
The weather report still predicted that severe conditions would be maintained through Tuesday, mostly due to the wide area of rain carried by the system that is moving at 9 miles per hour in a North Northwest direction, threatening the US Gulf Coast states from the Florida Panhandle through Louisiana.
Round-the-clock TV broadcasts with reports from several locations have confirmed to Cubans they have been spared the worse, compared to the havoc the storm wreaked all through the Caribbean.
Ivan brushes Cuba
Pinar Del Rio, Cuba - Packing ferocious winds and whipping up monstrous waves, hurricane Ivan's eye brushed Cuba's sparsely populated western tip as a treacherous Category 5 storm - the most powerful - and barrelled north toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Ivan, one of the strongest storms on record, hammered Grand Cayman with wind gusts of up to 320 kilometres per hour before reaching Cuba. The storm has killed at least 68 people across the Caribbean and threatens millions more in the United States.
The wall of Ivan's eye clipped the tip of Cuba at about 6:45 p.m. as it moved through the Yucatan Channel on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, the island's top meteorologist reported. The slow-moving storm, carrying 257-km/h winds, has U.S. residents from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana preparing to flee the Gulf Coast. The minimum sustained wind speed for Category 5 status is 251 km/h.
The hurricane hit Cuba hours after President Fidel Castro stopped to discuss preparations in Pinar del Rio city, where residents shouted "Fidel! Fidel!"
Castro vowed not to accept any hurricane aid from the United States. "We won't accept a penny from them," the Cuban leader said.
"The hurricane before this they offered $50,000 (U.S.), an insignificant amount," he said referring to aid the U.S. government offered after hurricane Charley. "Even if they offered all that was necessary - $100-million, $200-million, we would not accept. We can recuperate on our own."
As the hurricane's western edge drenched fields in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, six-metre-tall waves still were slamming the sea wall at the port in George Town, Grand Cayman, the wealthy British territory that is a popular scuba diving destination and offshore banking centre.
The Associated Press flew over the Cayman Islands on Monday, surveying Grand Cayman, where houses had been reduced to piles of plywood. A hangar at the airport in George Town had its roof blown off. Officials said the airport was not functioning and planes were being turned away.
The only signs of activity on the ground were animals congregating on higher ground.
Officials instituted a curfew in the Cayman Islands from dusk to dawn, and the government is setting up soup kitchens to help feed the public.
As Ivan moved in, Cuban state television reported waves of up to five metres crashing onto the southern coast of the Isla de Juventud southwest of the main island. Ham radio operators reported downed trees and power lines, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
Ivan swirled toward cropland that produces Cuba's famed cigars, a region still recovering from the effects of Charley. About 1.3 million Cubans were evacuated from particularly vulnerable areas.
The storm was also expected to deliver strong waves, rain and wind to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to the southwest. The island of Cozumel shut its airport, halted the arrival of cruise ships and prohibited all maritime navigation. Visitors to Cancun were advised not to stray from their hotels.
At 11 p.m., Ivan was about 65 kilometres west-northwest of western Cuba.
Though its hurricane-force winds extend 185 kilometres and tropical storm-force winds another 350 kilometres, only about 15 kilometres of Cuba's sparsely populated western tip was forecast to suffer Ivan's devastating top winds, said Stacy Stewart, a hurricane specialist at the Hurricane Center.
It looked like part of the eye would cross the island, "not technically a direct hit but near enough," Stewart said. The entire eye must hit land for the hurricane to be considered to have made landfall.
The Hurricane Center warned of coastal storm surge flooding of up to eight metres above normal tides with "large and dangerous battering waves" east of where it might make landfall. It also warned of life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
Ivan was moving toward the north-northwest at 15 km/h, with a more northwestward motion expected.
Although some forecasters predicted the storm would weaken Tuesday over the cooler waters of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Coast residents spent Monday boarding up their houses, tying up their boats and making plans to evacuate. Emergency officials in several Florida Panhandle counties were expected to decide Monday on evacuating fishing villages and beach communities.
At times along its wobbly path, forecasters had predicted Ivan could make direct hits on either the Florida Keys or populous South Florida, only to see it veer west of both areas.
Only three Category 5 storms are known to have hit the United States. The last was hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in 1992, killing 43 people and causing more than $30-billion in damage.
Oil prices shot up nearly $1.50 a barrel Monday as oil and natural gas producers evacuated rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Shell Oil said it was evacuating 750 workers from the gulf.
Including Cuba, Ivan will have swirled across 11 countries. It has killed at least 39 people in Grenada, 15 people in Jamaica, five in Venezuela, four in the Dominican Republic, three in Haiti, one in Tobago and one in Barbados.
The last Category 5 storm to make landfall in the Caribbean was hurricane David, which killed more than 1,000 people and devastated the Dominican Republic in 1979, said Rafael Mojica, a Hurricane Center meteorologist.
Cuba evacuates 1.3m people in advance of hurricane
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands Septemeber 13 - Hurricane Ivan, one of the fiercest Atlantic storms recorded, is heading toward Cuba after pummelling the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Grenada on a track that eventually will bring it to the US coast.
Cuba has evacuated 1.3 million people in anticipation of the monster storm with sustained winds near 160 mph (260 kph).
Ivan has killed at least 47 people, Ivan sent sea water surging over the low-lying Caymans, a British territory and wealthy offshore finance centre of 45,000 people.
Forecasters said the rare and deadly Category 5 hurricane was expected to pass near or over extreme western Cuba on Monday evening.
They warned of a 20- to 25-foot (6-7.6 metre) storm surge of seawater to the east of where the centre makes landfall in Cuba.
On Grand Cayman, the largest of the three Cayman Islands, homes and businesses were flooded, an airport runway was submerged and roofs were torn off, witnesses said.
Panicked residents climbed on kitchen counters to escape a waist-high storm surge that swept at least half a mile (about one km) inland.
Ham radio operators reported that people were standing on rooftops, the U.S. National Hurricane centre said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in the Caymans, but Ivan killed 19 people in Jamaica when it brushed past on Friday night and Saturday.
While damage was extensive, the island of 2.7 million people appeared to have escaped the total havoc wrought on Tuesday on the tiny spice island Grenada, where 19 people died and 90 percent of buildings were flattened or badly damaged.
Ivan was headed for tobacco-growing regions of western Cuba or Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Monday and then toward the United States, where it could inflict a third hurricane strike on Florida within a month or curve west toward New Orleans.
The hurricane's path was unclear, and the most powerful winds around its eyewall could end up closer to the Yucatan than to Cuba as it sweeps into the Gulf of Mexico and makes an expected northerly turn.
In southern Florida -- storm-weary after a visit from Hurricane Charley on August 13 and Hurricane Frances a week ago -- homeowners began to breathe a sigh of relief after it appeared the vulnerable Florida Keys would likely be spared.
Nevertheless, state officials warned that at least 1.7 million people living in fragile mobile homes or low-lying areas were at risk along Florida's Gulf Coast.
"We really have to err on the side of caution," said Florida state meteorologist Ben Nelson.
At least 12,000 Jamaicans spent Sunday night in shelters after huge waves, flash floods or fierce winds wrecked their homes. Looting, which erupted as the storm hit, appeared under control, as heavily armed police patrolled.
Cuba evacuated 1.3 million people -- more than a tenth of its population -- and prepared for 12 inches (30 cm) of rain.
Mexico's Yucatan peninsula also braced for possible high winds, and began evacuating 12,000 residents and tourists from Isla Mujeres, a resort island 8 miles (13 km) from Cancun.
On Saturday, Ivan's top sustained winds were reported at 165 mph (265 kph), making it the sixth-strongest Atlantic storm recorded in the Atlantic basin, the hurricane centre said.
Ivan was downgraded to Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson storm scale as it hit the Caymans but strengthened again to a rare Category 5 on Sunday night.
It was unlikely to reach U.S. shores as a Category 5, the centre said. Hurricane Andrew, which savaged the Miami area in 1992 and caused $25 billion (14 billion pounds) in damages, was a Category 5.
Ivan's centre was about 160 miles (255 km) southeast of the western tip of Cuba at latitude 19.9 north and longitude 83.5 west and moving west-northwest near 9 mph (15 kph) at 2 a.m. EDT (7 a.m. British time), the U.S. National Hurricane centre said.
In addition to the deaths in Grenada and Jamaica, four people died in Venezuela, four in the Dominican Republic and one in Tobago.
Fidel calls for discipline and preparation
September12: Cuba deployed buses, trucks and trains to evacuate some 400,000 people Saturday from coastal and flood-prone areas in Havana province as Hurricane Ivan approached the island.
All commercial transportation between Havana and the east was suspended and the authorities orgnaised the shutting down of sugar processing plants, harvesting ripe bananas, moving animals, storing seeds and chemical products, clearing drainage canals and trimming trees that could be toppled by Ivan's winds.
Men and boys climbed walls and crawled atop roofs to pull down television antennas and tie down the lids of water tanks to prevent them from becoming giant Frisbees during the storm.
All airports were ordered closed by midnight on Saturday, and foreign workers, tourists and diplomats were taking shelter in some of Havana's more modern hotels.
With winds of 165 mph, the Category 5 storm was projected to brush past the citrus-growing Isle of Youth off the southern coast Monday morning and then cut across the westernmost province, Pinar del Río, the heart of Cuba's world-famous tobacco industry.
Tobacco and citrus account for a combined $280 million in annual exports.
Speaking on television, President Fidel Castro called on the population to demonstrate more discipline than ever before in order to preserve life and health, and to follow to the foot of the letter directions from the Civil Defense so as to avoid loss of human life, given that everything else can be reconstructed.
"What cannot be restored are human lives," he emphasized, "but with our energy we will confront and resolve the adversities." He also talked of the need to protect storehouses, food reserves and school equipment, confirming that the island is prepared and nobody should be disheartened whatever the hurricane destroys.
Commenting on the characteristics of Hurricane Ivan, at 9:30 p.m. yesterday Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale of five, the Cuban president compared it with the effects of an atomic attack given its ample radius of material destruction. But after it has passed, he assured, a whole people will be working on reconstruction.
"We are better prepared than anyone to confront this atmospheric phenomenon, as would be the case in a war," he affirmed. "For that reason, the key at this point is discipline and strict fulfillment of Civil Defense instructions, because we have to imagine things that have never been seen."
He reiterated that the most important thing is to preserve human lives and stated that there are sufficient reserves to confront a hurricane like this one, or even a military aggression.
He observed that those responsible for intensifying the economic blockade of Cuba will be very happy, given they are unable to destroy the Revolution, so "roll on a cyclone," and the bigger the better in order to make the educational experience of the Revolution to "disappear from the map."
The Cuban leader stressed that he was announcing in advance that no aid will be accepted from those unleashing cruel economic warfare on our country. "Let them save themselves the hypocrisy of offering aid to Cuba," he stated.
"We have confidence in the peoples," he added, "that they will recognize the barbarities being committed by our enemies. And so, blockaded and with all the new measures against our country, we are going to defend and preserve life, health and food, even if innumerable banana plantations are swept away.
He recalled that after the last cyclone hit Cuba the U.S. government offered the ridiculous sum of $50,000 of humanitarian aid. "And we didn’t accept it. The only thing we can allow is a total end to the blockade and the economic aggression of our country! We are going to demonstrate that we are capable of resisting this hurricane as well, and others if they arrive, and how we can reconstruct the country with our own resources."
Weather Service Director José Rubiera warned that Ivan, which has already left more than 50 dead in the Caribbean, was "the strongest storm system to affect us in the entire revolutionary era" - since President Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.
And it comes just a month after Hurricane Charley slashed across the island, leaving five dead, knocking out power and water supplies for weeks and causing an estimated $1 billion in damages in the island of 11 million people. The last time two powerful hurricanes hit Cuba back to back was in 1948.
Cuba awaits hurricane impact
Most powerful to hit the island since 1924
Havana September 11: Hurricane Ivan is expected to hit Cuba on Sunday evening, by which time some forecasts predict that it will have regained its category five strength.
That would make it the most powerful hurricane to hit the island since 1924.
Cuba is preparing to move hundreds of thousands of people away from the danger zone.
The current forecast is that on Sunday evening it will cross the island on a path that takes it just east of the capital Havana.
The area is prime sugar cane land and home to some of Cuba's most popular tourist destinations.
There are fears that if Ivan's path veers just slightly to the west it will make a direct hit on Havana, home to two million people.
Cuba is only just recovering from last month's Hurricane Charley, which killed four people and left thousands without electricity or running water for weeks.
State media has been warning people that Ivan is likely to cause far more damage.
In Jamaica it has killed at least 27 people accoridng to reports. It left anestimated 60,000 people homeless in Grenada.
Cuba does have a long, successful experience in moving hundreds of thousands of people out of the way of hurricanes.
The Cuban President Fidel Castro has said that he expects the Cuban people's revolutionary spirit will see them through this dangerous time.
Hurricane Ivan, potential danger for Cuba
Cuba prepares for huge storm
BY ORFILIO PELÁEZ - Granma daily staff writer-
Havana 9 September: GIVEN its position in the central area of the Caribbean Sea and its predicted trajectory in a west northwesterly direction and subsequently further northwest, the powerful hurricane Ivan currently represents a serious threat to Cuba and is likely to directly hit the country this weekend, almost certainly on Sunday.
Dr. José Rubiera, head of the Forecast Center at the Meteorological Institute, explained that the presence of a band of high pressure over the eastern region of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico, which is linked to a cold front, could erode the influence of the strong anti-cyclonic force in the most westerly point of the Atlantic and form a departure route for Ivan northwards, crossing our territory at some point within the next 72 hours.
That possibility has been reported by the majority of Cuban and foreign forecasters and it is therefore important that the population and state organizations keep well-informed of the future movement and development of this intense hurricane, currently registered as five (the maximum) on the Saffir-Simpson scale, as well as adhering to directions from the Civil Defense units for each one of the established phases.
According to satellite pictures taken yesterday, Ivan displays an extensive and well-defined pattern of cloud that covered the whole of the eastern Caribbean Sea yesterday afternoon, with a totally circular eye or center.
Last night, the hurricane was approximately 1,000 kilometers southeast of Kingston, Jamaica with winds of up to 235 kilometers per hour and a minimum central hectopascal pressure of 938.
CALL TO MOBILIZE FORCES BEFORE HURRICANE HITS
In Havana this Wednesday, Carlos Lage, secretary of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers, said that in the face of the possible arrival of Hurricane Ivan, forces must now be organized for the recovery phase.
Lage and Pedro Sáez, first secretary of the Party in City of Havana, both members of the Political Bureau, attended a review of construction work and repairs to buildings damaged by Charley in the province and asked that the work be accelerated as soon as new resources are available.
At the meeting, Lage called on national agencies, People’s Power and all regions of the country to immediately organize linesmen brigades, chainsaw operators, construction workers and communal services personnel, to go into action as soon as the hurricane has passed.
Lage observed that we should learn from the experiences of Hurricane Charley and seek to perfect tasks such as pruning trees, collecting refuse from public highways, and preparing electrical plants for water supplies, as well as other methods and efforts.
With respect to the housing plan, Juan Contino, president of the capital’s government, spoke of the need to incorporate families affected by the last hurricane into the work of repairs and construction, in addition to support offered by the state.
Ivan flattens Grenada, Jamaica and Cuba next
ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada September 9: -The most powerful hurricane to hit Grenada in a decade killed more than a dozen people, damaged 90 per cent of its homes and destroyed a prison, leaving criminals on the loose, officials said yesterday.
Ivan also killed at least three others in the Caribbean as its 225 km/h winds churned toward Jamaica, Cuba and possibly the southern United States.
Details from Grenada did not come through until yesterday because the storm cut all communications with the spice island of 100,000 people and all radio transmissions.
"We are terribly devastated. ... It's beyond imagination," Prime Minister Keith Mitchell told his people and the world - from aboard a British Royal Navy vessel that rushed to the rescue.
Mitchell, whose home was flattened by Ivan, said 90 per cent of homes were damaged so the death toll could rise.
Grenada's emergency centre was destroyed and its main hospital damaged. Prisoners escaped the Richmond Hill Prison when winds ripped off the roof and caved in stone walls of the 17th-century hilltop fortress.
It was unclear whether the escapees included former deputy prime minister Bernard Coard and 16 others jailed for life for killings during a Marxist palace coup in 1983.
"It looks like a landslide happened," said Nicole Organ, 21, of Toronto, a student at St. George's University, which overlooks Grenada's capital. "There are all these colours coming down the mountainside. Sheets of metal, pieces of shacks, roofs came off in layers."
Sonya Lazarevic, a freshman from New York, said by phone that the mostly American students were arming themselves with knives, sticks and pepper spray for fear of looters near the school. "We don't feel safe."
Grenada Police Commissioner Roy Bedaau said every police station had been damaged, hindering efforts to control looting. He said Caribbean states were sending troops to help patrol.
U.N. spokesperson Fred Eckhard said virtually every major building in St. George's, many either English Georgian or French Provincial, suffered structural damage. A U.N. disaster team is being sent.
Before it slammed into Grenada Tuesday evening, Ivan gave Barbados and St. Vincent a pummelling. Thousands of people there remained without electricity and water yesterday.
In Tobago, officials said a pregnant woman, 32, died Tuesday when a palm tree hit her home.
The storm strengthened as it hit Grenada, becoming a Category 4, and got even stronger yesterday, packing sustained winds of 220 km/h north of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
Ivan is expected to reach Jamaica by tomorrow morning, then more towards Cuba and the U.S. coast, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
"It's taking a fairly similar track to Charley at the moment," meteorologist Jennifer Pralgo said yesterday.