MATANZAS.— On the afternoon of September 9, the sky darkened and the wind began to blow intermittently. Then came some light rain. By nightfall, the enraged wind stirred the waves, which at some points along the coast were big enough to sweep along all that they found in their path.
Such adversity put the courage and the organizational capacity of the population of Matanzas to the test.
Although the effects were felt throughout the province, Hurricane Irma’s path of destruction was focused on the northern fringe of the territory, where it hit with the greatest intensity.
The outlook following the storm was somewhat complex in the municipalities of Martí, Cárdenas and Matanzas. The devastating force of the winds caused damage to more than 6,000 homes, hundreds of state sector facilities, and the agricultural sector.
The experience at the Antonio Guiteras Thermoelectric Power Plant (CTE) offered a very particular example of the damage caused by the extreme wrath of nature. The force of the waves lashing against the nearby breakwaters was such that they swept away the 70 ton concrete structures that formed the supposedly impassable barrier.
The sea water circulation station, which protected the plant, collapsed, leaving it inoperable. On seeing the extent of the destruction, the plant’s workers, directors and representatives of the presidency of the Provincial Defense Council were astonished. But their bewilderment immediately gave way to the enthusiasm and motivation necessary to begin the arduous recovery works.
This unique experience earned the Guiteras plant huge praise. More than 21,000 cubic meters of rubble were removed with the help of forces and workers from various entities in the country, working uninterruptedly for days, to mention just one example of these efforts.
In just four weeks, the devastation was reversed. And while there is still work to be done to benefit the future protection of this CTE, it continues to provide a steady supply of power to the National Electricity System.
Looking back on the events over three months later, Tania León Silveira, president of the Provincial Assembly of People’s Power, noted that the most important aspect of Hurricane Irma was the cohesion and harmony with which the population of Matanzas faced the meteorological phenomenon, from the preparation stage to reduce its impact, right through the recovery process in its aftermath.
They did so with that characteristic Cuban spirit, especially noted in difficult times, León continued, after stressing that it was solidarity that once again kept people safe from the inclement weather. “The majority of evacuees were sheltered in relatives’ or friends’ homes, and that says a lot,” she noted.
The Assembly president explained that solutions have already been found for more than 60% of damaged housing, and that in the course of the first half of this year, they expect to conclude one hundred percent of the repair works in the province. This concern to ensure that nobody is abandoned to their fate is also among the best memories stemming from Hurricane Irma, she concluded.