Caritas Warns About the Situation of Thousands of Families After the Rains in Eastern Cuba

Street flooded by the rains in Camagüey. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 June 2023 — The loss of six human lives and innumerable resources during the heavy rains that eastern Cuba has suffered in recent days have set off alarms for several humanitarian organizations both inside and outside Cuba. This is the case of Caritas, managed by the Catholic Church, whose subsidiary in Cuba made a request for help that was published on Monday by Vatican News.

The damage caused by the rainfall, it says, “worsens the difficulties that the Cuban nation is already suffering,” from the “pre-existing economic crisis.”

The Caritas alert is aimed at those who want to help the dioceses – ecclesiastical provinces – of Camagüey, Bayamo-Manzanillo, Holguín-Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba, the most affected by the bad weather. Drawing attention to the seriousness of the situation and the precariousness in which many families find themselves, the organization explained that, especially in Bayamo-Manzanillo, the panorama was uncertain: 10,000 homes damaged, crops ruined and 470 communities flooded, plus another 25 isolated from land.

Vatican News interviewed several Caritas officials in Cuba, who confirmed the extreme need for material aid in the eastern region of the country. “Streets such as Rosario, República, Palma, Avenida de la Caridad up to the funeral home, also the main artery, Candelario and the Casino Campestre present a worrying panorama due to the flooding,” María Rosa Rodríguez, director of Caritas in Camagüey, explained to the Vatican newspaper.

Rodríguez said that the scenario faced by the evacuees, who had to put their material goods under protection, is unfortunate. The damage to buildings of more distant villages, such as Vertientes, Amancio and Jimaguayú, have been “innumerable,” and “the oldest houses were destroyed by the excess of water,” he summarized. He added that the groups of volunteers who have come to those places have found “water up to and above the gutters.”

In Holguín, where Vatican News interviewed the local director of Caritas, Mariela Vázquez, the organization reported “great damage,” and announced that “the risks and losses are increasing due to the overflowing rivers.” The most affected towns, he said, are Mayarí, Sagua, Gibara, San Germán and Puerto Padre.

The scene in Santiago de Cuba, from where the official Ana María Piñole reports, is not very optimistic: “Rivers and streams flood everything. In some areas, the fields that were already recovering have been lost. We maintain communication with priests and pastoral teams located in more damaged areas, but the climatic instability still does not allow the expansion of data on the damage, although they say that the situation is unfortunate.”

After reacting slowly to the crisis, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said on Monday that the United Nations agencies operating in Cuba, in addition to his ally Venezuela, have offered their help. The official press deferred coverage of the rains, which did not occupy the front page of the newspapers until several days after the damage began. The information offered by the state media alludes to the “benefit” of the rainfall: it filled the country’s dams and reservoirs.

Some newspapers have echoed Díaz-Canel’s request, such as Tribuna de La Habana, which announced, as of this Monday, a “collection of donations in the municipal governments of each territory.” “Spaces will be enabled in the headquarters of the 15 Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power of the province for the collection of donations,” the newspaper reported.

On June 7, the Institute of Meteorology of Cuba issued a special warning to explain that the cause of the heavy downpours was the combination of a trough in the middle and high levels of the troposphere, over the Gulf of Mexico.

However, the Civil Defense did not issue its usual informative stages of alert and alarm to warn citizens and institutions to take preventive measures.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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