Civil Society Organizes to Help Those Affected by the Tornado

Artists and independent journalists have gone to the areas most affected by Sunday’s tornado in Havana to provide support to the victims. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 January 2019 — Artists and independent journalists have gone to the areas most affected by Sunday’s tornado in Havana to provide support to the victims. Arriving in several groups at the esplanade of the Church of San Juan, they went into the surrounding streets to deliver clothing and shoes, canned meat, bread, crackers, pasta and blankets they managed to collect in the preceding hours.

The singer Haydée Milanés, pianist Roberto Carlos Rodríguez Cucurucho, actor Carlos Manuel Paiffer, director Alejandro Gutiérrez, journalist Michel Hernández and the musician Athanai were some of the individuals who went to Luyanó and distributed what they could along Mango, Remedios and San Luis streets.

As they explained, their intention was to come together and bring some essential products they collected from family and friends. In addition, they recorded a video in the streets to ask others to join this initiative. At these times, they affirm, it is important to use the power they have as public figures to bring people together .

The artists Yomil and El Dany, Alex Duval, and Divan also came to the Luyanó area, and appeared on Mango Street with two pick-up trucks which they used to distribute soft drinks, yogurts, juices and sanitary paper to the crowd that surrounded them. The arrival of this group of artists created much confusion among the neighbors and initially many thought they were representatives of the Government. “I’m running to see if it’s Diaz-Canel, I’m going to tell him that no one has come here to take an interest in us,” said a neighbor before she took off up the hill.

“We are all here supporting the cause for those affected and we are happy to have the opportunity to help the people, who are so badly in need at the moment,” said Yomil, a reggaeton singer, as he handed out groceries to the neighbors. The artist came with part of his production team that helped organize the line.

An hour later several neighbors in the area told this newspaper that a group from State Security did not let the artists finish distributing the aid and expelled them from the area.

Several independent media reporters helped to remove debris from houses to the street, including Rafa Escalona, of AmPm magazine. Photographer May Reguera, a contributor to the magazine Garbos, was also seen carrying aid in a small box  for the most affected neighbors.

The Pazillo bar and the tattoo studio La Marca have tacked on their own initiatives for providing relief for the victims through a donation corresponding to their receipts for a day. Some restaurants like D`La Abuela have proposed to bringing, for free, food with a 30% discount for adults and free of charge for children.

El Destino restaurant announced that it is in talks with the provincial government to ascertain information on the location of the victims with the intention of getting them canned liquids and toiletries. “Any contribution is very much needed for these people,” they said.

The Government, for its part, has announced the arrival of material resources to the most affected areas. “Six new locations for sale of construction materials have been set up and it is anticipated that 800 roof modules (fiber cement) and 800 window units will be available,” they reported. Authorities have counted up to 1,286 damaged homes, plus 123 total and 625 partial collapses. They have placed more than a thousand water tanks for the population, replacing the 873 that were damaged.

The Minister of Public Health has updated the number of injured. Of the 195 initial admissions, 74 patients remain hospitalized, 12 in serious and two in extremely serious condition. The death toll remains at four in the official data.

The Council of Ministers, which assessed the damage, indicated 140,000 people were without electricity as of Wednesday morning, a problem that, according to the authorities, will be resolved in the next 48 hours.

Some 5,300 customers have had telephone service restored, but there are still 10,800 customers without it.

According to the authorities, the distribution of potatoes in Havana will begin on Friday, starting with the affected areas.

#FuerzaCuba. A un #Tornado devastador, un tsunami humano de reconstrucción. #Cuba conoce y practica la #Solidaridad. Una sociedad organizada, una economía planificada, un gobierno socialista, siempre tendrán reservas para que nadie quede desamparado. #SomosCuba #YoVotoSí

— Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (@DiazCanelB) 30 de enero de 2019

On Twitter, Miguel Diaz-Canel has acknowledged the solidarity of the Cuban people but has specified that the planned economy and the socialist government “will always have reserves so that no one is left homeless.”

For the moment, however, the ruling party has not commented on the donations that Cuban emigrants are collecting in several countries, especially in the United States, Mexico and Spain. The organizers of the collection efforts fear that the General Customs Office of the Republic will not relax its strict import regulations to let the products into the Island.

On previous occasions, the Plaza of the Revolution has preferred to appeal for the help of other ideologically aligned governments, such as Venezuela, Bolivia or Russia, but has rejected aid from international organizations and exiles.

The damage left by the tornado last Sunday has occurred at a time of extreme fragility of the Cuban economy. The country has a chronic lack of liquidity for buying abroad, has accumulated debts and has deepening shortages of basic products within its borders.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


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