Nuevitas, Camagüey.– Its approaching midday as we set off for Nuevitas with a press team and directors of the Civil Defense Council.
Army Corps General Ramón Espinosa Martín, deputy minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba and commander in chief of the eastern region, is leading the delegation which includes Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca, a PCC Central Committee member, first Party secretary in the province, and currently President of the Provincial Defense Council.
There’s damage in the municipality of Camagüey, but not as much as when Hurricane Ike hit the region, September 8-9, 2008.
Trees have been uprooted and are lying in the street, while several fallen telephone poles block roads. But residents are already up and about organizing and clearing debris. The Hatibonico River, which was swollen this morning, has now subsided.
It’s the same scene everywhere as we continue our tour. The province is a large plain and heavy rains have caused water to accumulate in certain parts. There are more trees lying on the road, luckily the wind hasn’t caused the same damage to the roofs and walls of the wooden houses which predominate in the area.
Once we arrive in Nuevitas, everyone is surprised and relieved to see less damage than expected.
Granted, there is destruction pretty much everywhere, but in addition to suffering no fatalities, at most Irma seems to have been responsible for the partial or total loss of roofs on houses and economic centers, as well as damage to the agriculture sector, above all banana farms.
That being said, houses are reported to have been completely destroyed in communities such as Punta Gorda, Pastelillo, and La Gloria.
According to Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca, speaking to the press, damage to Nuevitas is currently being assessed but doesn’t seem to be “as serious as we imagined it would, which puts us in a good position to begin recovery efforts and we should see results in less than 72 hours,” he noted.
The neighborhood of Santa Lucía however, seems to have been the worst affected, where the wind brought down 19 electricity pylons, as well as telephone poles, and 200 trees. Damage to hotels in the locality’s tourist area and a number of partially collapsed buildings in zones closest to the sea have also been reported, added to Tapia.
Meanwhile, Army Corps General Ramón Espinosa Martín noted that communication has been established with Cayo Cruz, one of the areas close to where the eye of the Hurricane passed, adding that everyone on the key is fine and that the roofs of several facilities and lodgings for construction workers were destroyed.
Access routes connecting the key to mainland Camagüey that were being repaired or built, were completely destroyed, with Cayo Cruz currently cut off via land, noted Espinosa Martín.
“Nonetheless, there is one good thing and is that we have seen that the people are ready to work, to look for solutions. The people themselves have come out on to the streets to cut away fallen branches and clear debris.”
Meanwhile, at Angola port, known to local residents as Tarrafa, the roofs of the facility’s 13 vessels suffered damage. However, thanks to preventative measures chemical products stored at the site were not affected, nor were there any spills in the Bay, added Jorge Sutil Saravia, first Party secretary in the municipality and president of its civil defense council.
Regarding the power situation, he reported that blocks six and four of the 10 de Octubre thermoelectric plant are out of action, while problems have also been reported with the transformers in the facility’s engines.
Although Irma’s winds frightened many throughout the night of September 9 – according to several evacuees at the Mario Herrero Toscan Polytechnic School, which served as a shelter for over 500 people in Nuevitas – the community awoke the following morning feeling optimistic, as even after Nuevitas was hit with heavy rain and gusts of over 100 km/h which continued for several hours, the town remains standing; with roofs blown off, branches and plant matter everywhere, trees littered across the streets, and several collapsed buildings, but still alive.