Sandy leaves disease, destruction in Cuba
By ROBERTO DE JESUS GUERRA PEREZ
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
SANTIAGO, Cuba -- While sections of the East Coast of the United States
are still totaling up the damage from Superstorm Sandy, much of Cuba is
overwhelmed by destruction and disease cause by what one U.N. official
called the most severe storm to hit the island nation in half a century.
Already, outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever have been reported in
eastern parts of the country, with residents in three provinces -
Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas and Guantanamo - saying some municipalities
have been placed under quarantine.
Public health authorities have not yet officially acknowledged the
Meanwhile, storm damage to property was exacerbated by the poor
condition of many buildings.
Even before Sandy struck, officials knew the storm posed a serious threat.
Lazaro Exposito Canto, head of the Provincial Defense Council in
Santiago de Cuba, made a last-minute announcement on television and
radio, warning "it's not looking good. Citizens whose homes are in poor
condition should take precautions and all necessary steps to avoid loss
of life." Few heard his message, however, since most people in the
province had lost power by the time it was broadcast.
Preliminary damage reports, published in the country's youth newspaper,
Juventud Rebelde, indicated that more than 4,200 homes had collapsed,
27,000 had lost their roofs entirely and 17,000 had damaged roofs in the
President Raul Castro, who visited the stricken city of Santiago soon
after the storm, heard how local residents managed to survive.
"In the middle of the night, the roof of my house was blown off by
strong winds," one woman told the president. "Thanks to the support of a
neighbor ... I was evacuated along with my children, husband and other
neighbors in the mist of the cyclone. By the morning, everything had
been destroyed, houses flattened, and lots of people were crying as
they'd lost everything they owned."
Today, more than a month after the storm, the main concern for many is
the spread of disease.
Residents of Las Tunas, Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo and Granma
provinces say doctors and other health workers are actively inspecting
houses and heavily populated areas to curb the diseases.
Meanwhile, tight security is being imposed to prevent word from
spreading about the extent of the disease. One eyewitness said police
and security-service officers are guarding infectious disease wards at
clinics and hospitals to prevent news of the scale of infection leaking out.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Roberto de Jesus Guerra Perez is a reporter and founder of the Hablemos
Press news agency in Cuba. This article first appeared on the website of
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that
trains journalists in areas of conflict. Readers may write to the author
at the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London
WC1X 8LT, U.K.; Web site: www.iwpr.net. For information about IWPR's
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McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the
opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the
views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.
2012, The Institute for War & Peace Reporting"