14ymedio, Havana, 27 May 2018 — The intense rains of subtropical storm Alberto, the first of the Atlantic hurricane season, have left more than 5,000 evacuees in Cuba, flooded villages and damage to extensive agricultural areas, especially in the western and central areas of the island, according to information gathered by 14ymedio.
Saturday and Sunday have been especially difficult for residents in several areas of Villa Clara province, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spíritus where the flooding of rivers and the opening of dams caused locally serious floods, which have been easing off in the first hours of today.
The local media reports some 3,600 evacuees in Sancti Spíritus, 1,000 in Villa Clara and 352 in Cienfuegos. In this last territory the most affected towns are El Santo, Pavón, Siete Pazos, Vega Redonda and others, of the Encrucijada municipality. The number of people in shelters could grow as updates of the situation are published.
In the San Lázaro de Cienfuegos district, there was a notable rise in the level of the river, but without any damage to human lives. In the area, characterized by low-income housing and a precarious road infrastructure, the very first rains associated with Alberto were enough to soak the interior of many houses and the residents had to move their possessions to somewhere safe.
The damage to services also kept residents of the area in suspense on Sunday. “For two days they have not sold bread in the ration stores, everything is wet and being hungry in addition, it is all too much,” says Norma, a resident of 47th Ave. and 72nd Street of the slum area where the garbage piled up in the corners was washed away by the water currents.
Schools have been suspended, in order to use the facilities for the evacuees. The province’s dams average 104% full and at this time all reservoirs are being opened to let some of the water drain.
The Cienfuegos municipality of Aguada de Pasajeros received just over 7 inches of rain in the last hours, Abreus and Rhodes both over 6 inches, Palmira and Cumanayagua 7 inches, Lajas just over 7, Cruces 7 inches and the provincial capital, Cienfuegos, 6 inches.
In the neighboring province of Sancti Spíritus the Zaza dam accumulated 949 million cubic meters of water, exceeding the established limit of 920 million. Its six gates have remained open since Saturday morning, releasing about 50 million cubic meters of water.
This situation is echoed in eight of the nine dams in Sancti Spiritus, according to the Escambray digital website.
Samuel Estepes, a resident of Tunas de Zaza, in the southern zone of Sancti Spíritus, is evacuated with his family to the school, according to a telephone interview with this newspaper. “The rain has not stopped since Saturday,” he said before detailing the extensive damage that the waters are leaving in the area.
At least two building collapses have been reported in the Dos Condado settlement and another two in Trinidad, a city with very old homes of heritage value. The situation of the buildings is much more tense in Algaba, a settlement of the Municipality of Fomento, where at least fifty houses have suffered partial or total damage from floods.
In Yaguajay at least 20 buildings collapsed as a result of the rainfall and flooding of rivers. Farmers in the area report the loss of small livestock, such as rams and pigs. Classes are suspended in all schools in these municipalities and 14 schools are being used to house evacuated families from flooded areas, according to the activist Aimara Peña, a resident of the Las Tozas town of La Paz, who spoke with this newspaper.
The storm Alberto formed a week before the official start of the hurricane season in the Atlantic and intensified in the last hours with its winds reaching 45 miles per hour according to data from the National Hurricane Center (CNH) in the United States.
In the west, the provinces of Pinar del Río, Havana, Artemisa and Mayabeque are also among the most affected. The tobacco crop in Pinar del Rio has been seriously damaged by the abundant rainfall at a time when the growers are deeply engaged in the harvest.
Civil Defense called Saturday for a reduction in the risks from disasters and called on “the governing bodies, state agencies, economic entities and social institutions and territories” to take the necessary measures in situations like this.
In the Cuban capital, in the municipalities of Centro Habana and La Habana Vieja, countless families evacuated to the homes of neighbors and relatives for fear their homes would collapse.
“We can not enter our house because the leaks have soaked all the wooden beams of the roof and we are afraid that it will come down,” Matilde, 62, a resident of Gervasio Street in Havana, told this newspaper. “Around here there are many families that are in the same situation, because in this neighborhood we have several tenements in very bad condition.”
In the block where Matilde lives, a few yards from Havana’s Malecón, the residents haven’t forgotten the bad memories left by Hurricane Irma last September. “That time it was the penetrations of the sea but now it has been the rains,” says the woman. “It scares us that the sun comes out suddenly, because that can be worse.”
In 24 hours, from eight o’clock on Saturday morning until the same time this Sunday, the most significant accumulated rainfall recorded was: Jovellanos 10 inches, in the province of Matanzas, 7 inches in the city of Santa Clara, almost 5 inches in the city of Cienfuegos, and well over 8 inches in Sancti Spíritus.
The authorities in the state of Florida, in the United States, declared a state of emergency this Saturday regarding the rains and winds associated with the subtropical coastal strip from Dry Tortugas to Bonita Beach, in the limits between Mississippi and Alabama.
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