Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlantic storm for many years, hit many Caribbean islands including Cuba before moving on to south-east USA. President Raul Castro called on Cubans on Monday to unite in swiftly rebuilding at the same time as the country is helping neighbouring islands with medical aid.
This was the worst hurricane to hit Cuba for 85 years. At least 10 people are dead; there is widespread devastation along the north cast and to the sugar industry. The capital Havana has also suffered extensive flooding.
Raul Castro said “Given the immensity of its size, practically no region escaped its impact...The task we have before us is immense but, with a people like ours, we will win the most important battle: the recovery.” Cuba was by Hurricane Matthew in December 2016. The damage this year is not fully assessed, but is likely to be greater. Castro places the same reliance on his fellow Cubans to be able to rebuild.
‘The task...is immense but, with a people like ours, we will win the most important battle: the recovery.’
Recovery work has begun already; clearing roads, with the priority to reach the worst-affected areas with drinking water. Reuters quoted Alain Alfonso a bakery worker in Havana, “We are working twice as hard as usual to ensure as much bread as possible to the population.”
Even before the main force of Irma hit Cuba, it had sent more than 750 doctors and health workers to other Caribbean islands in need, including Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas, Dominica and Haiti. This is in line with a long-standing approach by Cuba to help and collaborate in emergencies. As ever this was barely reported by the British media.