Adalberto Ramírez, his spouse, daughter, and grandson live in one of the 68 multi-family apartment buildings in Cienfuegos affected by Hurricane Irma, which beginning September 8, 2017, ravaged Cuba for more than 72 hours with winds over 250 kilometers per hour.
The roof of Adalberto’s buildings was left with multiple leaks, walls were chipped, everything left colorless and unsightly.
“The building was waterproofed and now no one gets wet. It’s all painted and looks new. But if this effort, executed rapidly, is worthy of recognition, so is the work done before, during, and after the event,” he stated.
“All for one, just like in Fuenteovejuna, the story by Lope de Vega they taught us in school. Just like that, we mobilized to clear the trash, rubble, downed trees…” said Yandri Sarmientos, who was completing his military service at the time and among the young Revolutionary Armed Forces troops who provided decisive support to the recovery of province, hit hard by Irma.
The call on our “combative people,” made by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, served as a powerful motivation for residents of Cienfuegos. As he pointed out, those were days of much work, which once again showed the strength of Cubans and their confidence in the Revolution, noted Mayrelis Pernía Cordero, vice president of the Provincial Civil Defense Council.
Reynaldo Gómez Hermida, head of the temporary task force noted that across the province there were “a total of 2,445 dwellings affected, including 68 multi-family buildings; 1,737 roofs partially damaged; and 240 dwellings completely destroyed.”
By the end of August this year, Pernía reported, solutions to 96% of these cases had been found.
Although the figure is relatively low, given the total damages, 66 totally destroyed dwellings have yet to be rebuilt and the commitment has been made to finalize the effort over the last months of the year, to reach December with no pending cases, the director said, adding, “The fundamental problem is carpentry trim; but local solutions are being sought,” she explained.
NO MAGIC TRICK
Only a political-government system which has serving the people as its basic premise could accomplish so much, in such a short time. The Party and government in the province have carefully supervised and channeled the work throughout an entire year of arduous effort.
Innumerable meetings and tours have been conducted, as well efforts made to guarantee the resources needed by those impacted. The result has been notably positive because of this constancy, in which willpower has always prevailed.
Noteworthy was increased local production of building materials, as directed by
Army Corps General Joaquín Quintas Solá, head of the Central Strategic Region, during his many visits to review work underway around the province. The progress made with this program contributed greatly to the success of recovery efforts, as every day 70 square meters of construction materials for walls, floors, and roofs were delivered.
“Working here is hard, but it’s very rewarding to know that, with what you make, people can build a home in a few months,” said Alipio Almaguer, a worker at one of the materials centers.
Cienfuegos residents like the family of Sandy Quintana and Rosa María Cedeño, and many others in the province, have acquired building materials valued at a total of 15 million pesos. Some 2,415 persons in need of funds to repair or rebuild their homes were able to receive bank credits worth close to 2.5 million pesos.
On another front, the Cienfuegos Mixed Cement Enterprise S.A. contributed to the recovery effort following Hurricane Irma by supplying 70% of the national market demand, and making the repair of damage possible via its products.
Oscar Rodríguez Ayala, assistant manager at the plant, emphasized that their products supported the recovery across the island, given the facility’s responsibility to deliver cement to the entire central region, including resort areas on the northern keys, and to the country’s east via bulk deliveries by train.
The Cienfuegos Provincial Defense Council’s (CDP) experience - and that of its counterparts on the municipal level and of all state bodies involved in preventative and response efforts before, during, and after the storm - were collected, with the goal of extracting lessons to better prepare for events of this type in the future.
The final evaluation, a key part of the learning strategy, was comprehensive, allowing for both positive and negative experiences to be identified, explained Lidia Esther Brunet Nodarse, CDP president, also a Central Committee member and Party secretary in the province.
QUICK THINKING & PREPARATION TO FACE THE STORM
- As Irma approached, sheltered in Cienfuegos were some 23,000 persons, while 3,500 boarding school students and 378 campers were returned to their homes in 406 means of transportation, all very rapidly.
- Responding to Raúl’s appeal to the Cuban people, 18 mixed brigades were created, including 260 workers from all municipalities.
- Intense work was organized to clear debris and ensure hygiene at the People’s Council level, in the province’s eight municipalities.
- Immediately following the storm, food services began to sell prepared meals at accessible prices to help the residents who had lost their food supplies, given the lack of refrigeration.
- Telephone workers gradually restored service to more than 4,000 clients affected.
- Once urgent recovery efforts were concluded, temporary task forces were established to organize and direct reconstruction and repair work.
- The province’s leadership directed farms and cooperatives to intensify the planting of short cycle crops to be able to respond rapidly to the population’s food needs.