Storm Leaves Western and Central Cuba Tense with Thousands of Evacuees and Large Areas Flooded

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 29 May 2018 — Tuesday dawned in the city of Havana with intense wind gusts and a lot of rain brought on by subtropical storm Alberto.  In the center of the country the situation is much more complex with serious floods, damage to bridges and roads and extensive flooding in agricultural areas.

The provinces with the most serious problems at the moment are Villa Clara, Cienfuegso, Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Avila, with parts of their territories flooded, thousands of people evacuated and a forecast of continued rainfall throughout the day.

In Villa Clara there are 16,000 evacuees and several towns isolated by road closures and floods.  Sixty-four homes have totally collapsed and 138 partially.

In the city of Sancti Spiritus at least 130 homes have suffered partial or total damage due to the rains and winds that accompany the first storm of this season a week in advance of the north Atlantic hurricane season which begins June 1.

From the town of Las Tozas in Sancti Spiritus, activist Aimara Pena reports 198 houses partially or totally collapsed in Foment and that ground transportation is still interrupted.  In the town of Condado, the Puerto Rico elementary school suffered the collapse of its roof.

Also in this province, agriculture has been seriously damaged, especially corn and yuca.  Authorities estimate 8,000 tons of rice ready for harvest but still uncut are under water in La Sierpe.  In Yaguajay, beans have been the crop with the most problems, with more than 800 hectares damaged by the rains, and in all of the Espirituano territory the waters have ruined 600 hectares of unharvested tobacco and some 3,000 tons of drying tobacco, reported provincial radio.

Travellers by bus and train crossing the region for other destinations in the east or west of the Island have been sheltered in the Lino Salabarria Pupo School of Sports since the highways and other means of transit have been closed.

The tourist town of Trinidad has almost-deserted streets because of the climatic situation which has required many foreign visitors to seek safety within the area’s houses.

Damages in Cienfuegos have required 11,483 people to evacuate, most of them to the homes of family and neighbors, as reported by press official Marilyn Hernandez Ferrer, vice-president of the Provincial Commission of Evacuation.

“We had to leave with the clothes on our backs because the water started to rise, and when we realized it we almost couldn’t save anything,” laments Manuel Rojas, a resident of the Cienfuegos town of Aguada de Pasajeros who says he has lost “furniture and animals,” among them pigs and chickens.

Rojas has moved into the house of “some neighbors who live in a higher area, but the water keeps advancing, and we may also have to get out of here soon,” he said by telephone to 14ymedio.

According to reports from the authorities in Cienfuegos, the pumping of water to homes will be affected by the flooding of the pumps and transformers in the Damuji plant.  Service will be available only every four or five days.  The provincial directors have said that the situation should be resolved in 72 hours after the waters recede.

The Abreus dam discharge is keeping the residents of Aguada de Pasajeros isolated.

With transportation services and sales of bread and milk interrupted, the residents of the Rodas township try to protect themselves and spend the most difficult moments with the provisions that they managed to stockpile before the weather situation deteriorated.

“We have joined three families in the top floor of this house because it is made of masonry and is quite strong,” says Osniel Sosa, area resident.  “But the biggest problem that we have now is supplies because there are several children and old people who need products like milk, and there is none.”

The Damuji River, which crosses the settlement, is out of its banks, and the houses closest to its channel have been partially or totally covered by water.

The Cienfuegos resident complains that “so far there has been no food distribution” for those who are trapped by the waters in their own homes or those of neighbors or relatives.  “We have been isolated and thanks to radios with batteries that some have and the charge that remains in some cell phones we have been able to learn that the rains will continue.”

The official media have labelled the situation “very tense” in the Cienfuegos refinery where emergency teams work through the dawn in order to prevent the continued discharge of the contents of the oil pools into the area of clean waters.

So remained the refineries’ petroleum pools of #Cienfuegos, #Cuba, when the hydrocarbons met with clean water. [Video shows people ‘fishing’ in the flooded streets]  

— Adonis Subit Lami (@asubit) 28 May 2018

Technicians are trying to install a barrier to stop the environmental disaster of the refinery’s oil winding up in the sea, and its general manager has promised before local media that the state entity will repair “any environmental damage.”

In recent hours the province received some 200 millimeters more in the rain guage, and several settlements in the mountainous region of Cumanayagua have become isolated.

The Water Resources provincial delegate, Pablo Fuentes, asserted that the six reservoirs of the Cienfuegos territory are 109.6% full and are all releasing excess water.

In the capital the weather has worsened with the dawn, and the weather forecasts point to a day of intense rains.  Rains again complicate the routine of Cuba’s biggest city and aggravate the situation of countless homes in the city that are in a state of good or bad repair.

“Yesterday we were afraid that the sun would come out, and on drying, the walls or roof would fall, but now the fear is that it will keep raining,” says Yanisbel Ponce, resident of Reina street at Escobar.

Authorities had activated the Civil Defense in the province, and most of the city’s schools have been empty or half-empty of students since Monday.  On the local Havana radio, government authorities recommend not going out to the streets because of the danger of collapse of balconies and facades or the fall of electrical cables, while in the streets the people ask why the Civil Defense did not announce in time the hurricane “alert” or “alarm” before the rains from storm Alberto.

In the area of Infanta and Manglar, an area that usually floods with strong rains, residents have been ready since Sunday for any contingency.  The majority of families in the area have spent years dealing with these types of phenomena and have created means of protection.

“Here the entrances to the houses are not at ground level, but most people have made stairs and walls that, although inconvenient, protect from the water,” says Mariacarmen Gonzalez, resident of a building located on the central corner.  “Anyway, when there are so many days of rain, it is best to evacuate the mattresses and refrigerators.”

A few meters from the place, several residents of a small, marginal neighborhood take advantage of a brief pause in the rain in order to reinforce their roofs, like a resident of El Platanito who says:  “I got a tarp that is going to help me cover a leak that I have in the roof over the bed.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel.


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