Date: 23 Sep 2008
1.5 million people in Cuba affected by Hurricanes Ike and Gustav
Handicap International launches an emergency project in Cuba.
In Cuba, Handicap International runs community-based rehabilitation and
inclusive education projects. The three provinces where our projects are
located were affected by both hurricanes. Irene Manterola, in charge of
the Handicap International activities in Cuba, went to La Palma on
Tuesday 2nd September, 48 hours after Hurricane Gustav. The hurricane
hit the town full force with a category 4 wind of up to 340 km per hour.
Irene tells us: "The landscape is distressing. There is nothing left! It
is difficult to imagine a wind capable of blowing over trucks, trees,
containers, … I visited communities where there used to be 25 houses.
There are now only one or two houses left and no shops. The fields are
devastated; electricity lines are on the ground. When they were talking
to me, local people were shaking when remembering the stressful hours,
children crying, men trying to hold doors and windows while the wind
blew endlessly. They spent these hours not knowing what was happening
outside. Some people thought it was the end of the world."
One week after Gustav, Hurricane Ike went through Cuba on Sunday 7th
September at 10am. The hurricane only left Cuba on Tuesday afternoon,
after going through the entire length of the island. From Saturday
onward, the effects of the hurricane were being felt with widespread
floods and the sea level going up by 7 metres. Intense rains went on
until Wednesday 10th September. Hurricane Ike came in through the
Holguin province in the south of the country with winds of up to 200 km
per hour and it slowly weakened while making its way out through the
North with category 1 winds, following in the footsteps of Hurricane Gustav.
The whole country is affected by this disaster. The economy, mostly
based on tobacco, nickel and tourism is badly affected, and the projects
run by Handicap International for disabled people are temporarily turned
into emergency activities. Handicap International is focusing on
responding to the equipment requirements identified by the needs
assessment. In the meantime, a similar project is being set up by the
French branch of Handicap International in Haiti.