Raúl Castro On Hurricane Devastation

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Raúl verifies progress of recovery in Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo

Jorge Martín Blandino

“It has been a really heavy blow; it was a powerful hurricane which developed rapidly. The reality exceeds everything that press and television photos can show. Santiago is a moving sight, it looks like a bombed city. But we are going to get over this. You are a valiant people. We have known that for more than half a century.”

These are the words of President Raúl Castro Ruz, who also announced that he will not leave Santiago until the city has electricity.

Raúl tours Santiago and Guantánamo 

PRESIDENT Raúl Castro Ruz arrived in Santiago de Cuba at midday October 28 and went immediately to the Provincial Defense Council command post for disaster situations. There, Reinaldo García Zapata, its president, gave him an up-to-date report on the current situation in the province and the response to consequences of Hurricane Sandy.

Also present were First Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura; Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez, Vice President of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Economy and Planning; and Army Corps Generals Ramón Espinosa Martín and Joaquín Quintas Solá, both deputy ministers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR).

Hurricane Sandy caused the most damage in the municipalities of Santiago de Cuba, Songo La Maya, Palma Soriano and San Luis, with houses, economic activities, basic public services and educational, health and cultural institutions badly affected.

Lázaro Expósito, first secretary of the Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba, noted the solidarity received from other Cuban provinces and which is beginning to arrive from Venezuela, as well as the constant presence of the National Defense Council and different central state administration bodies in ongoing efforts to restore the damage.

The Cuban President reflected on the most difficult challenge: the 130,000-plus homes affected, in particular the 15,392 totally demolished and 36,544 partially demolished ones, data still to be confirmed. He stated the need to work urgently on temporary solutions, with rigorous damage control and at the same time to continue studies on how to address this problem in the longer term, as the definitive solution will require years of work. He commented that the community of petrocasas (houses constructed from oil derivatives such as PVC) in the city of Santiago de Cuba were left virtually intact, confirming their solidity.

He supported the correct decision to give maximum priority to restoring basic services as quickly as possible, especially electricity and water, while emphasizing the importance of informing, orientating and maintaining constant contact with the population.

Intensive work is underway to clear the province of considerable volumes of rubble and uprooted trees which, in addition to the negative psychological effect on people, are obstructing the road network and thus recovery efforts. Participation by FAR troops, engineering and transport vehicles has been decisive in this effort.

VISIT TO CIEGO DE AVILA

Prior to traveling to Santiago de Cuba, Raúl met with Félix Duarte Ortega and Noemí Iglesias Falcón, president and vice president of the Ciego de Avila Provincial Defense Council, who informed him that the heavy rains associated with Sandy were of benefit to the province, as damage is moderate and reservoirs have accumulated 96% of their total capacity.

“This readiness of the people of Ciego de Avila and all Cubans to help their compatriots in the east of the country with the human and material resources needed is impressive,” Raúl commented, and asked about the dispatch of agricultural produce and pre-prepared foods.

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