With Delay, Civil Defense Reacts to the Heavy Rains in Eastern Cuba

The Air Force crew carries out a rescue of families trapped in Mateo Román, in Granma Province. (Facebook/Frank Fernández)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 June 2023 — It took several days for the National General Staff of Civil Defense to react to the heavy rains that have caused flooding in the east and center of the Island. The death by drowning of a 60-year-old man in Jiguaní (Granma), the precarious evacuation of thousands of those affected and the loss of buildings and resources did not occupy the front pages of the official press until this Saturday, after Miguel Díaz-Canel said goodbye to the president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, in Havana and dedicated a tweet to the serious weather situation.

According to official figures, 7,259 people have been evacuated so far, while 10,000 houses have been affected, of which 65 have suffered total and 214 partial collapse. However, the first note from the Civil Defense limited itself to reporting that the rains “will persist” in the coming hours and referred readers to the report of the Institute of Meteorology on the rainfall.

In addition, the National General Staff reported that the soils were saturated and that “risk levels will be increased,” so “don’t commit imprudences” and follow the authorities’ instructions.

Cubadebate opened this Saturday with the horrifying images of the Camagüey stadium, almost completely submerged in water, and with Díaz-Canel’s statement that he had communicated with local leaders to study the situation. “The damage is considerable to housing, roads and agriculture,” he summarized.

The rain gauge network of the Institute of Meteorology and the Institute of Hydraulic Resources reported accumulations of more than 8 inches in 14 of the rain gauges, while 53 registered values greater than 4 inches.

The senior official that the Government appointed to supervise the progress of the floods from Granma is Deputy Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca, who chairs a “work commission” to mitigate the impact of the rains. His strategy has been the “constant monitoring of the condition of the reservoirs” and, to a lesser extent, the evacuation of those affected.

Nine peccaries – a species of mammal similar to a pig – and an antelope from the Camagüey Zoo died during the floods, from drowning and hypothermia, respectively. Faced with the concerns of the population, the director of the institution, Eddy Jorge Garay, said that there had been no escape of crocodiles, lions or any other dangerous animals.

However, the most affected area so far, according to the official press, is agriculture, with 1,730 acres flooded by the rain in Las Tunas, which is one of the most significant figures. Eight municipalities in Las Tunas have also been hit hard by rainfall. Civil Defense protected 5,000 head of cattle in the province and kept them under surveillance, along with other animals.

The damage caused by the flooding of the Jobabo, Tana and Seville rivers is remarkable, they stressed, although they qualified the severity of the panorama stating – as the national press has been doing for days – that the dams of the region were filled.

As a result of the floods, the Union of Railways of Cuba announced the suspension of the Havana-Bayamo-Manzanillo train, which was to leave this Saturday and return on Monday. In addition, the Omnibus Nacionales company also canceled the services scheduled for this weekend. In both cases, the agencies announced, they will reimburse the tickets of those who bought them.

This Friday, the Institute of Meteorology published a special notice – the third since the rains began – predicting that there would be affectations in the central area in addition to the eastern one. In addition, it warned that the situation in Camagüey would reach significant levels of precipitation, as well as “isolated locations” in Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spíritus.

“This hydrometeorological situation continues to be related to the persistence of a trough in the middle and high levels of the troposphere over the Gulf of Mexico, which maintains a humid flow from the southwest throughout the country, in combination with atmospheric instability and local factors,” it indicated.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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