The People of Havana Hold Their Breath in the Face of a Forecast of More Rain for Sunday

This Saturday night the floods began to recede but left behind a very worrying panorama of mud, dirt and material damage.

The avalanche of garbage prevents the city’s drainage from quickly releasing water. / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, June 23, 2024 — “I slept on the table because the bed got wet and I couldn’t put a sheet on the floor, it was all flooded,” this is how Leidy, age 32, a resident of the neighborhood of Los Sitios in Havana, describes her situation. The area, which is traditionally flooded with rains, has been one of the most affected by the intense downpours that this Saturday covered large areas of the Cuban capital with water.

On Saturday night the floods began to subside but left a very worrying picture. “Here everything is full of mud and garbage; the cisterns are contaminated; we don’t have electricity and many neighbors have lost everything because the water level rose very quickly; there was no time for anything,” she tells 14ymedio.

Leidy says that in her neighborhood they are “flood experts” and have put up walls at the entrances to their homes and have ways to evacuate mattresses, household appliances and to take children and the elderly to the upper floors. But this Saturday’s downpour showed that “you can believe that you have everything planned but when nature says ‘I am here’ there is no one to stop her.”

Los Sitios, like most of the neighborhoods in Havana, has gone months with mountains of garbage accumulating on the corners and waste that covers the drains, aggravating the situation. “In my house we woke up today and there is nothing to eat. Our bread got wet, water got inside the refrigerator and a mortadella that had been kept for the children was spoiled because the water inside was disgusting, with a foul smell and a lot of things floating around.”

Leidy fears the possible health repercussions of having been in those dirty waters: “It got above my waist, and I had to spend hours to take out the garbage, trying to put the furniture on top of each other. I’m still wearing the same clothes as yesterday, which can’t be very good for my health.”

“We neighbors are the ones who are cleaning the sewers with sticks, with brooms, with what we can; we are the ones uncovering the drains,” complains a neighbor of Old Havana where the water exceeded 3.4 feet in height.

In many corners of Central Havana, Old Havana and Cerro the panorama is repeated: mountains of garbage that the rain couldn’t carry away, a foul stench and water piling up. The sewer drains are clogged with plastic bags, beer cans, plastic bottles and debris.


The avalanche of garbage prevents the quick drainage of the water, as the drains are also in a very bad condition. Between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon on Saturday, according to a report from the Forecast Center of the Institute of Meteorology, over two inches of rainfall was recorded at the Casablanca station in Havana.

14ymedio has documented in several articles this year how different garbage dumps remain piled high in key points of the capital and, also, how the mountains of waste in the corners of the capital keep growing.

The government authorities in Havana called on citizens to act “with prudence, discipline and responsibility,” as well as not to cross the flooded streets and take extreme hygiene and protection measures for their property.

Meanwhile, in the most affected areas, the residents are waiting for a supply of food to help them get through a day in which new rains are predicted. “So far they have not told us that they are going to bring anything. My grandmother is listening to the radio to see if they say they are going to hand out some cookies, bread or soda but they have not said anything. They are playing music and talking about the Humor Biennial, as if nothing had happened,” explains Modesto Amaury, a resident of one of the most affected areas near the Plaza de Cuatro Caminos.

Granma newspaper, the official organ of the Communist Party, does not seem to have heard about the floods in the capital of the Island either. Its cover this Sunday dedicates space to the official support for Palestine and a visit of Miguel Díaz-Canel to the municipality of Unión de Reyes, in Matanzas, but the scenes of water exceeding three feet of height in Old Havana, Cerro and Central Havana are conspicuous by their absence in Cuba’s main newspaper.

Other official news sites have problems, collapsed by the avalanche of readers who are looking for meteorological information or details of some emergency plan to distribute food, mattresses and other supplies that families have lost with the intense downpours that have been plaguing the Cuban West for more than two weeks and that, in recent days, have become stronger.

“Civil Defense did not say anything previously. The sewer drains were not cleaned, the garbage was not collected, and there was no information,” complained an elderly woman from Nuevo Vedado, in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, who has been practically confined to a high floor of her building because “the stairs are flooded and the elevator does not work,” she explains to 14ymedio.

“Mosquitoes have multiplied because there is a lot of accumulated water, especially in the area of the train tracks,” she says. Although the building where the woman lives was built in the 80s, “it has leaks, and yesterday I had to move the bed because a stream of water was coming through holes in the ceiling lights .”

The cloudy sky from very early predicts another day of precipitation for this Sunday. The weather forecast of the Forecast Center of the Institute of Meteorology warns again about the occurrence of numerous showers, rains and thunderstorms in much of the country, which will extend into the evening and can become strong in some locations.

The Center explained that there is currently a large low pressure center located on the southwest of the Gulf of Mexico which is generating a large area of disorganized rains and thunderstorms.

“You don’t know know what’s worse, that there is more rain or that the sun rises, because when this heats up we will see more [building] collapses,” says the elderly woman in Nuevo Vedado. While she puts containers and casserole dishes under the leaks, in other Havana neighborhoods, people try to clean the mud away and list their losses, especially those supplies and household objects that will not appear in any official report.


Translated by Regina Anavy


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