Cuba: Hurricane Sandy - Preliminary Emergency appeal n° MDRCU002

This Preliminary Emergency Appeal seeks 5,453, 221.00 Swiss francs in cash, kind, or services to support the Cuban Red Cross (CRC) to assist 15,000 families (75,000 beneficiaries) for nine months, and will be completed by the end of July, 2013. A Final Report will be made available by 31 October 2013 (three months after the end of the operation).

Once further information from assessments has been received, a full Emergency Appeal will be issued with more details concerning damage and needs, beneficiary selection and the response of the Cuban Red Cross.

The situation

Tropical Storm Sandy was formed in the western Caribbean on 22 October and rapidly intensified while moving north. It had direct impact on Jamaica and reached the Cuban shores at dawn on 25 October as a category two hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 175 km/h, although gusts as high as 240 km/h were recorded in higher areas. Sandy crossed the island of Cuba from south to north, making landfall in Mar Verde, next to the city of Santiago de Cuba and leaving the country five hours later at the level of Punta Lucrecia in Holguín.

To prevent loss of life, the Cuban government coordinated the evacuation of 343,230 people, of which some 300,000 stayed with family and only 14,349 stayed in collective centres. Nevertheless, despite significant efforts to protect lives, eleven deaths related to the storm have already been confirmed by the Chief of Staff of the National Civil Protection (Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil), nine in Santiago de Cuba, and two in Guantánamo.

During its passage through Cuba, Sandy left significant damages behind, particularly in the city of Santiago de Cuba which is not usually in the direct path of Caribbean hurricanes, and the city sustained the strongest winds as it was exposed to the eastern and stronger side of the hurricane. In addition to the strong winds, coast was also affected by storm surges. In Siboney, some 14 kilometres from Santiago city, the waves were some 10 metres above the coastal barrier, with the ocean reaching some 35 metres inland.

Assessment work is still ongoing and complete information on the situation is not available thus far. However some 21 municipalities have been particularly affected in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba (with the second largest population of the country), the province of Holguín (third largest in the country) and Guantánamo.

Preliminary figures estimate that the number of homes which incurred damage, either with roofs torn off or partial or total collapse, are around 150,000. In the most affected city of Santiago de Cuba (population 494,000) all municipalities suffered different levels of damages, electricity was lost and disruption in communications has occurred, with some 17,300 telephone lines down. In Holguin where the situation is clearer, the Provincial Civil Defense Council stated that some 17,300 homes have been affected, of which more than 3,000 lost the entire roof and 1,800 have completely collapsed.

Furthermore, all hospitals in Santiago have reported damages, although they all seem to be functional and continue to provide their services. There are also damages in the telecommunications infrastructure, with the telephones and radio in the oriental provinces down in many areas. In addition, the television tower in Gran Piedra fell, as well as two other towers in Santiago and two in Holguin.

Finally, the agricultural sector is also reporting severe losses, particularly the banana, sugar cane and coffee crops. At least 2,695 hectares of plantain in Laguna Blanca were destroyed in Santiago de Cuba, while Holguin reports some 6,000 hectares of damaged plantain crops and some 21,000 hectares of sugar cane flooded or broken. Damages have are also reported in warehouses and food production industries.