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How Cuba manages to withstand major hurricanes

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How Cuba manages to withstand major hurricanes

The archipelago, particularly affected by cyclones, government has put in place a national programme of evacuations to be very effective. But he struggles to rebuild sustainably.

" The water is allowed to enter city unexpectedly, up to 400 to 500 meters from sea. It was very impressive, as is force of wind. "Gustavo Andujar Robles, director of cultural center Padre-Felix-Varela of archdiocese of Havana, assisted, powerless, to flood of hurricane Irma, who was hit by full force of north coast of Cuba, on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September, when all eyes were turned to Florida.

The cyclone outside norm was classified as a category 5, maximum level of scale of Saffir-Simpson scale. Winds peaking at 250 km/h and torrential rains fell on coast and centre of island, making 10 deaths and considerable material damage in many provinces and in capital. "Everywhere re are trees to ground, rubble and electrical system is still largely destroyed," said Gustavo Andujar Robles.

Irma is most powerful hurricane in which eye is directly affected Cuba since 1932. "Beyond exceptional strength of this cyclone, its trajectory, that has skirted whole of island, was very scarce," explains Jean-Noël Degrace, meteorologist, Météo France based in Martinique. The or hurricanes crossed more often Cuba and thus lose intensity. This time, remaining at limit of land and warm waters, Irma was continuously recharged. "


While inhabitants to return, little by little ir homes destroyed or severely damaged, emergency is first and foremost to provide m with products of first necessity. "People have lost everything. We need to bring m food, and give m access to purified water, sanitation facilities and hygiene, as well as drugs, " says Richard Paterson, director of NGO CARE in Cuba, which has launched an appeal for donations. Venezuela has announced, Monday, 11 September, sending 10 tons of food, drinking water and effects of first necessity to its ally cuban. Similarly, Panama has sent on Tuesday humanitarian aid to Cuba, and Saint-Martin.

n Comes challenge of reconstruction. "First you have to come from abroad and supplies to rebuild roof because local production is not sufficient, and that takes time, details humanitarian. Then it will require strengning of infrastructure and buildings. They were already in a bad state, but with water y have been soaked, y will deteriorate again, with a risk of cave-ins. "The island will require" at least a year or more " to recover fully from this disaster, ja-t-it. "But Cuba has experience in field of management of hurricanes. "

On road of hurricane

The archipelago is particularly affected by cyclones. It is located at time on road of hurricanes known as " cape verdeans ", that form off african coast, but also of those who are born in gulf of Mexico. "His size and his territory very long, increase risks of being touched," adds Jean-Noël Degrace.

Fourteen major hurricanes (category 3 or higher) have struck coasts of cuba between 1950 and 2016, equivalent to one every five years on average. Irma is first category 5 since more than half a century, after five of category 4 (Matw in 2016, Gustav in 2008, Dennis 2005, Michelle in 2001 and Fox in 1952). In recent years, island has also been affected by Sandy, Ike, Katrina and Wilma.

" Since beginning of Twenty-first century, it is observed that hurricanes formed in Atlantic ocean become more intense and bring more rainfall, ensures that Jose Rubiera, a specialist on hurricanes at national Institute of meteorology cuba. It has already saved nine major hurricanes se past sixteen years, compared to fifteen in Twentieth century. "

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national Programme of evacuations

in Face of se cataclysms, Cuba is regularly in front of human losses to zero or small compared to extent of damage. If figures cannot be verified, it is neverless true that archipelago has developed a "culture" of hurricanes. Its main strength is its national programme of evacuations, put in place after passage of Flora in 1963, which had caused death of 2 000 people and caused serious damage.

" The cuban civil defense, in all towns and districts, thanks to a mesh is very dense, and ensures that people have left ir homes to join of reception centres or homes of neighbors more solid, " says Richard Paterson. More than a million people, about 11 million of island were evacuated prior to passage of Irma. The civil defense, which depends on ministry of armed forces, " has right to declare a national emergency and force people to evacuate, including by force ", complete Benigno Aguirre, professor at centre for research on disasters, university of Delaware (United States), who has studied emergency management in Cuba. Sometimes " misfires ", since majority of 10 victims of Irma had refused to evacuate, according to authorities.

in Camagüey, one of areas most affected by passage of hurricane, nine centres have been fitted to accommodate all persons who do not have a home in hard or who live near rivers, coast or or dangerous areas, " says Roberto Estevez Chantada, journalism student at university of Camagüey, who has remained holed up, a day long, in his house in concrete with its neighbours.

The cuban civil defense also organizes annual periods, called " Meteors ", which involve hundreds of thousands of people, to prepare to cope with natural disasters. "She made announcements in media and relies on excellent services of national Institute of meteorology, working closely with national hurricane center american of Miami," says Benigno Aguirre, who points out, moreover, quality of cuban health system.

Poor balance in terms of reconstruction

But at same time, judge, expert, Cuba has a very bad record in terms of reconstruction, disaster mitigation and management of environmental problems and socio-economic chronic. "The government saves lives, but can't help people rebuild and sustain ir home, in a context of major shortfall in housing," says Benigno Aguirre.

He points to lack of willingness to integrate concept of resilience – that is to say, ability to adapt after a disturbance – in culture of inhabitants and policy of government. "The extreme centralization of political system of cuba, as well as poverty, have prevented development of citizens' initiatives to improve how we manage risk and live differently ", he explains. "We still have to improve education of populations at risk," confirms Jose Rubiera.

re are also problems in urban planning. If a law of 2000, officially prohibited construction of buildings on natural sites, such as beaches, cliffs, or mangrove, in reality, construction of housing and hotels continues to edge of sea, sometimes illegally.


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