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Cuba: Community Lavalla200> of Holguín, with general councillors

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Marist Bulletin - Number 206


Brother Héctor describes his experience of Hurricane Dennis when it hit the island of Cuba

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This message aims to describe a little about last week. Brother Carlos is visiting his family and will return in August. Efraín, Salvador, Yoandy, José Luis from México Central and I are sharing with you what happened with Hurricane Dennis.

I do not know if you heard that Hurricane Dennis entered our bay a week ago, causing damage in our city of Cienfuegos and on a large part of the island. It was a category 4 hurricane. We have lost 60% of tourism revenue from 2004. We have also lost, up till now, 15,000 houses and 21 foreign tourist hotels (here Cubans do not have access to such hotels, even if they have enough money to pay for their stay) have suffered significant damages there have been 16 deaths and more than 400 million dollars worth of lost materials. The loss of 36 towers in the central zone has caused a breakdown in the electrical network. More than 2 million people are without water due to the lack of electricity to pump the water to their houses. There have been 120,000 houses seriously damaged as well as the 15,000 totally destroyed. Two areas of the Granna province are nearly totally without houses: Niqueo, with 83% of houses badly damaged and Pilón with 94% in ruins.
The crops of lemons, bananas, manioc, avocados, mangos and corn have been lost totally. The sugar cane and tobacco escaped the devastation, as it is not their season. 73 thousand laying birds have been killed. We are in the midst of recuperation, trying to get ourselves out of this, as the Cubans say.
I will explain to you what I have experienced. This is the second hurricane that I have seen at Cuba, the other took place last year at La Havana.

Thursday 7th: normal life and … a sudden hurricane alert! The mother of Yoanda, a Marist aspirant, came to our place to accompany his father who had an infarctus. He underwent intermediary therapy, and then intensive at the hospital. It started raining.

Friday 8th: everyone ran and tried to protect their homes before the hurricane hit! They protected their merchandise. At midday, violent winds. At 13:00, rain and from 14:00 until 17:00 the hurricane, with violent storm winds and very strong rain. We heard the branches being torn off and the tiles flying away… 18:00: we got rid of the water from the house. The rain returned. We tried to repair the interior of the house, as there was a number of leaks and water was getting everywhere.

Saturday 9th: 24 hours of unceasing rain. Still little movement in the morning. The afternoon, there was some movement and we left to speak with our neighbours, to see the damage and the victims. Many shrubs, trees, houses in wood, electric power lines had been torn away. We suppressed our planned activities: the summer meeting for the youth of the neighbourhood and the Diocesan Laity Assembly were moved back until August etc.
The fence that separated the new construction of our houses yard had been battered.

Sunday 10th: Very few people in the streets. We had Sunday Mass with very few participants; we spoke about what had happened and what we could do. The sun made a brief appearance. We started to clean the houses yard, to get rid of the branches, to saw the fallen trunks, etc.
We spoke with our bishop, Bishop Emilito, a former student of the Marist Brothers at Santa Clara. He travelled through his diocese. He told us about the disaster in places and the anguish of his people. We saw him, very much moved, recount what he was able to see and hear. We must do something, even if it is quite small, a little, insignificant. We had to be with the people.

Monday 11th: We found a good woodcutter for the mango and avocado trunks. We continued to visit the people in their communities. We made note of the extent of the damage they had suffered. In my suburb called Esperance, Mileidys house was completely destroyed. Katys house, Senias mother, was a wooden house. These people were waiting for people to come and they thought we could help them. Some did not want to go to the emergency centres because they feared losing the little they still had. A part of Migdalias house, catechist at Tulipán, was made of wood. Brother José Luis who came to help us in the summer centres arrived safe and sound.

Tuesday 12th: We continued to visit the people and to reorganise the house. We bought some rice and peas for the people of our communities.

From Friday 8th till Wednesday 13th, we remained without water and electricity. The people in the streets bustled around water cisterns. Some opened the reservoir cistern to assure the distribution. We started to clean the streets. It was very humid and there were bad odours. The hospitals, hotels and shops have their own system for producing electricity. The people bought the little food that was left. On Wednesday evening, the electricity and a little bit of water returned. The water that arrived needed to be boiled.
Caritas, Cuba arrived with some symbolic products… Raphaël, the Director of Caritas, had started distributing the little he had in his storeroom since Monday and to buy powdered milk, rice, pasta, soap… etc.

Wednesday 13th: We saw more movement and the people started to go back to their normal work, even though there was still a lot to be done in fixing up their homes. Neither our house, nor the parish of Lourdes, Carmen and of Christ the King, looked after by the brothers, suffered serious damage. I felt sorry for our neighbours who complained about the children who broke the roof tiles with their balls and now the hurricane had blown all their tiles away. We need to help them!

Thursday 14th and Friday 15th: we started visiting the families and to help them as best we could; that is why we have adjourned the activities of July and August.

Fraternally and union of prayers,
From Cuba, Brother Héctor


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