Havana Tornado Victims Disagree with Government’s Triumphalist Accounting

Since the tornado hit some neighborhoods in Havana in January, more than 20 people live in this warehouse without any privacy. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 July 2019 —  Six months after the tornado that hit Havana, the authorities say they have resolved 95% of the damages suffered by the housing stock. This accounting, however, hides the drama of hundreds of families who suffered the total loss of their homes and for whom housing remains unresolved.

Of the 1,068 homes that were totally destroyed, according to official data, 450 have not yet been rebuilt, which reduces the positive data to 57.9% for these more serious cases.

The data is derived from a speech on television by Euclides Santos, provincial director of Housing, and César Hernández, vice president for Construction and Housing affairs in the Council of the Provincial Administration. Both spoke on Buenos Días, the program of the journalist Lázaro Manuel Alonso, who on Monday dedicated his timeslot to the state of repairs.

“Today the efforts are focused on the total housing collapses, of which 450 homes are still to be rebuilt. In the month of July, 138 homes are intended to be completed; in August 159 and in September 153,” explained Hernández, who added that in order to solve the most serious cases, the policy “of rebuilding the houses on site and the adaptation of unused State premises,” that are modified to serve residential uses has been maintained.

Santos said that to solve the complaints that arose in the recovery process “a system has been established through the governmental structures of the territories.” In the case of the municipality of Diez de Octubre, he specified, a command post was created to respond to all of the population’s complaints and uncertainties.

On the television program the complaints and thanks of some of those affected were presented, although it was claimed that there were more lights than shadows in the process.

The resident of Novena street, in the Casino Deportivo neighborhood, protested that a file has not even been opened to solve their cases although they jumped through all the governmental hoops indicated. “The clock just keeps ticking and I have not received an answer,” said one of those affected, on television.

This newspaper was able to confirm that about 20 people are still crammed in the old warehouse of the Villena Revolution school, in unsanitary conditions, waiting for a new home. Yudelmis Urquiza, one of these victims, told 14ymedio that “after all this time,” both she and the other inhabitants of the shelter where they were relocated “remain in the same place.”

Although on the 19th the neighbors held a meeting with the authorities, who promised to give them a solution on the 24th or 25th of this month, the days have passed without anything changing. “The whole week passed and nothing. Every time they come and promise and promise, but in the end they don’t fulfill their promises,” Urquiza laments.

Local authorities told those sheltered in Villena Revolution that they would be there “only for three months” because it was a “transitory” solution, but the time is already double that and everyone is still living in the same painful conditions.

In the networks there are also those who complain about the priority received by Havana when similar situations elsewhere that happened earlier remain unresolved. Yailin Cosme Pérez, a resident of Santiago de Cuba, expressed her happiness on Twitter for the recovery of Havana, but asked the authorities to “see the pending cases of Hurricane Sandy (2012) in the town of Boniato,” where there are many homes in “very bad conditions after total collapses.”

The workers of the Ministry of Construction continue to work in the most affected areas supported by cooperatives and the self-employed.

On January 27, a tornado suddenly hit the Havana municipalities of Diez de Octubre, Guanabacoa, Regla, San Miguel del Padrón and Habana del Este with gusts exceeding 300 kilometers per hour.

The phenomenon left 195 wounded and about 10,000 people had to leave their homes to take refuge in the homes of neighbors or relatives and state shelters.


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