The day after a devastating tornado hit several Havana municipalities, some 13,000 telephones were reported out of service, for the most part in Diez de Octubre, Regla, and Guanabacoa.
More than 1,200 workers from the Cuban Telecommunications Enterprise (Etecsa) immediately joined the recovery effort in the most affected areas, and, within eight days were able to repair 89.82% of the damage, although, as of February 4 some 1,650 lines were still out of operation.
To take on the task, 28 brigades from eight other provinces, with 268 workers, provided support, in addition to specialized brigades from less affected areas in Havana to the west and north. Including all Etecsa forces in the city’s eastern and southern districts, a total of 75 brigades and more than 1,000 people have been involved in the recovery work.
The first effort undertaken was directed toward reestablishing the cellular phone system and Wi-Fi hotspots, while at the same time work began on repairs to equipment located outdoors, where the majority of damage was concentrated, given the more than 300 downed poles, along with innumerable overhead telephone lines, Etecsa public information specialist, Elisa Alfaro, told Granma.
The work of repairing small telephone routing cabinets, that also provide data services, is difficult, she noted, given the precision required to avoid mistaken connections.
She added that, in some cases, progress in reestablishing service was dependent on the restoration of electricity. In the case of cell phone towers and Wi-Fi hotspots that suffered damage, she reported that all had coverage and were fully operational as of February 4.
Alfaro explained that support was provided to those whose homes were damaged by the tornado in the city’s eastern and southern districts, including subsidized sales of landline telephones and the transfer of calls made to inoperative numbers to another line of the client’s choice.
“We are working without interruption from early in the morning until late at night to reestablish the remaining inoperative lines as soon as possible. Etecsa is maintaining constant supervision and management of the situation and progress in the recovery,” Alfaro said.
In Regla, the 93-meter transmission tower, El Sapo, which provides services to Radio COCO and Radio Rebelde, was damaged by the powerful winds associated with the tornado.
Transmission was reestablished initially via other alternative frequencies, as foreseen by RadioCuba, now working on repairing the tower.
The institution reported on its Facebook page that work began with assembling the 20 sections that will conform the new 60-meter tower.
“The job has been, and will be, the responsibility of two brigades from the Construction and Erection Division, a brigade from Havana and another from Mayabeque,” the report states.
None of the affected area’s Computation and Electronics Youth Clubs were damaged, according to Alexander Díaz, director of public information for the network of clubs, “But clearly defined among our social objectives,” he stated, “is the provision of products and services related to information and communications technology to families. After the tornado, the Youth Clubs supported affected families by offering our services.”
He explained that they erected tents to provide services free of charge, including the projection of audiovisuals, use of electronic devices, and downloading of data, applications, and the Club’s digital cultural package, Mi Mochila.
The tents located in Regla, Guanabacoa, and Diez de Octubre have been very helpful in providing those without electricity at home with a means to re-charge personal devices.