OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Photo: Granma

Hurricane Irma is wreaking havoc on the island, particularly along the north coast. Trees of all kinds have blown over, unstable buildings have been destroyed, there is now sea where pavement used to be, and everything has been disturbed by the force of its winds.

The inland penetration of the sea is one of the most dangerous effects Cuba is facing, officials noted during the fourth meeting of the National Defense Council for Disaster Reduction, held in Havana this Thursday.

According to the national weather radar, it is possible that the hurricane will tilt slightly to the west, extending the affected area of the island’s western coastline.

Although Irma has remained a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, it continues to be intense and extensive and could have devastating consequences on Cuba, including sea penetration, stressed Major General Ramón Pardo Guerra, head of the National Civil Defense General Staff (EMNDC).

Throughout today, Saturday 9 September, waves could reach between six and ten meters high along the central and eastern provinces, experts noted during the meeting, which was attended by the member of the Party Political Bureau, Esteban Lazo Hernández, president of the National Assembly of People’s Power, and Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya, minister of Science, Technology and Environment.

The strongest impacts are expected in the northern keys of the country, where the sea level could rise by two meters.

Baracoa was one of the first places to feel the impact of Hurricane Irma. Photo: Pablo Soroa

“This rise in sea level and strong waves due to the persistence of the winds could cause the water to pass across some of these keys,” noted Amílcar Calzada Estrada, head of the Institute of Marine Meteorology.

The strong waves will extend from tonight until tomorrow, September 10, all along the northwest coast, gradually affecting the provinces of Mayabeque, Havana and Artemisa.

SWIFT MEASURES TAKEN AS IRMA APPROACHES

Since the beginning of the implementation of the Hurricane Informative Phase in the eastern part of the country, all authorities of the island have mobilized in order to guarantee the safety and protection of citizens and economic resources.

The Ministry of Communications, in anticipation of possible flooding, has taken measures to guarantee communications and, in turn, prevent material damage.

The Telecommunications Company of Cuba, Etecsa S.A., has dismantled 34 parabolic antennas from its communications towers located in the eight provinces affected by the passage of the hurricane.

“We have taken this preventive measure as these devices are very sensitive to the strong winds,” explained Manuel Zayas Martínez, director of Frequency of the Ministry of Communications.

The dismantling of WiFi hotspots in the territories that will suffer most is also a priority. “WiFi antennas are being dismantled in approximately 100 zones along the provinces of the north coast that will be hit by Irma,” Zayas added.

This service must be withdrawn 12 hours before the Hurricane begins to impact the territory, and will be restored as soon as possible afterwards, so that the population can communicate with family members in other countries, he added.

Sea penetration, strong winds and rain could also affect the electrical supply in affected territories. To prevent any distribution to the service, the Cuban Electric Union (UEC) has set up 25 emergency towers to distribute electricity.

The UEC has formed 155 brigades, composed of 1,066 electricity workers, who will be distributed among the most affected provinces. “The contingents are ready to go out and work on the quick solution of any difficulties that may arise,” noted Jorge Hernández, senior civil defense specialist at the UEC.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health, in conjunction with the Biotech and Pharmaceutical Industries Group, has organized 67 medical-surgical brigades to ensure medical assistance in difficult-to-access communities, officials reported.

This Ministry has also relocated 177 health system units (pharmacies, clinics, etc.) to solid and safe institutions in the affected territories.