Friday, October 25, 2013

A Year After Hurricane Sandy Hit Cuba

A Year After Hurricane Sandy Hit Cuba
October 24, 2013

HAVANA TIMES — In the days before Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast
of the United States, it made a disastrous run through the Caribbean.
Just after midnight, on the morning of October 25, 2012, Hurricane Sandy
made landfall in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second-largest city,
devastating the area overnight.

The storm blew for 6 hours, with winds of over 100-mph. The result was
catastrophic, seeing massive damage to housing, government
infrastructure, education and health facilities, and bringing economic
activity to a halt. It was the second-biggest storm in Cuba's history.

I was in Cuba when Sandy hit and traveled to Santiago to cover the
aftermath. What I found was that Santiago, a cultural epicenter of Cuba
and once its capital, had become a wasteland covered in debris. Usually
lush with tropical trees, all vegetation had been ripped from the ground
or stripped of its leaves and the hot equator sun beat down on the city.

Residents gathered to help one another, to clean up the rubble left by
the hurricane, and to piece together their homes. Many people, left
without electricity and running water, awaited government aid. By
nightfall they would await a new day – hoping that help would come
knocking at their door.

Though the government responded immediately with some food and supplies,
most people I encountered never saw this assistance. Rebuilding supplies
were sold to them on loan. Their homes were in shambles, and without the
economic means to rebuild, they knew the damage of Hurricane Sandy would
linger in their lives for years to come.

As the one-year anniversary approaches we begin to reflect on Hurricane
Sandy. I headed back to Santiago to find that many are still scarred by
the traumatic event. Many residents consider it to be a "cambio totál,"
or "total change," meaning that after the hurricane, their lives will
never be the same again.

Life today in Santiago is paradoxical. In some ways markedly changed for
the worse by Sandy, and in some ways having returned to normal. Children
go to school and people go to work; hospitals, the tourist center, and
government facilities have been rebuilt. A few, with economic assistance
from family abroad, have been able to reconstruct their homes
completely. Critical electricity, phones, and running water have been
restored. On the surface, and in the center of town, things in Santiago
have been fixed.

Yet, as I walked the streets of Santiago I was asked by several people
to enter their homes and photograph. They showed me their
pieced-together houses where rain continues to pour in and their ruined
mattresses. They showed me the one room they were able to rebuild where
their entire family now sleeps, and the secret businesses they have
started to make money for reconstruction supplies.

They wanted me to see their broken appliances and backyards turned into
junkyards of debris, they wanted me to see that every day, the burden of
life and rebuilding is too much to bare. Many have lost hope that their
lives will return to normal.

However, Cubans have suffered hardships through the years and they have
met challenges with unique endurance and ingenuity. Though most people
have given up on getting help, they continue each day to survive and

They are creative in their ways of carrying-on and making life work.
They know that they deserve to be happy and lead normal lives. They
mention the destruction, they may cry over what they have lost, but in
Santiago, residents continue to do what they can to improve their
situation and move forward.

Source: "A Year After Hurricane Sandy Hit Cuba - Havana" -

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