(HAVANA) – A day after Cuba was struck by one of the strongest storms in its recent history, a picture is emerging of severe devastation left in Hurricane Irma’s path.
Winds and heavy seas triggered by Hurricane Irma first reached Cuban shores Friday where it escalated into a Category 5 hurricane as it made landfall. The storm would eventually weaken as it moved along Cuba’s northern coast before turning towards Florida early Sunday.
“We knew Irma would be bad. Virtually the entire island has been impacted,” said Richard Paterson, CARE’s country representative in Cuba. “Right now, we’re reaching out to local partners to get a sense of how hard this hurricane hit. We’re particularly worried about those communities along the northern coast in the central provinces – we fear some of these areas have been left in ruins.”
Along this region, there have been widespread reports of uprooted trees, electrical lines down, roofs blown off buildings and floodwaters from storm surges that still have not returned to the ocean.
The capital Havana also was impacted. The Cuban newspaper Granma reported that “storm surges and high waves have caused coastal flooding in Havana, to an extent never before seen in some areas.”
Paterson says he spent Saturday night in the dark listening to the howling wind while knee-deep water flooded the street outside his building.
According to government officials, Hurricane Irma has strongly impacted electrical infrastructure in practically the entire country.
Cuban authorities evacuated more than one million people ahead of Irma and will lead relief and recovery efforts. CARE and local partners in the affected regions are preparing to respond if requested and will look to assist with water, sanitation, hygiene and household supplies and other relief items as needed. Over the coming days, CARE partners will be looking to travel to the impacted regions to assess damages.
Many Canadians who have travelled to Cuba may be familiar with some of the areas hit hard by Irma, as the hurricane struck several popular resort locations.
“Irma has affected the livelihoods of so many people in Cuba. Not only those who work at the resorts, but their friends and families in communities living near the coast,” says Paterson. “While the Cuban spirit is strong, we know this will be a very difficult recovery.”
CARE has a spokesperson available in Cuba. To arrange an interview, contact:
Communications Specialist | CARE Canada
email@example.com | 1-613-228-5641
To help us ensure we can respond to emergencies right away, CARE Canada has set up the Emergency Response Fund. Visit care.ca/response to donate.