Caribbean: Hurricane Dennis OCHA Situation Report No. 7

Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2005/0104

OCHA Situation Report No. 7
Hurricane Dennis - Cuba
13 July 2005

This report is based on information provided by the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Cuba.


1. Dennis, a category IV Hurricane, has affected Cuba from its Eastern-most tip to the province of Havana. It severely affected the country for over 40 hours until it sped away on 9 July as it entered the Florida Straits at a point just east of the city of Havana. The eye of the storm briefly penetrated on 5 July the Eastern Cuban province of Granma. Dennis is the strongest storm that has affected Cuba in July in the past 8 decades and was the fourth violent storm in only 38 days of the 2005 hurricane season.

2. Dennis directly struck 12 of Cuba's 14 provinces, with a population of 8 million out of the 11.1 million Cubans, meaning that 72% of the population was exposed. Dennis carried flood-causing rains, violent coastal penetrations and devastating winds of some 200 kilometers and hour and even stronger gusts near the center. Initial estimates of damages run into one and half billion US dollars.

The hurricane severely affected all Southern coastal areas as well as a string of small islands known as "Jardines de la Reyna", gravely affected.

3. This storm provoked the death of 16 persons, a very unusual event in recent Cuban history. 13 of the dead lived in Granma province, 2 in Santiago de Cuba and 1 in Sancti Spiritus, the latter in central Cuba.

4. Material damages have been diverse and very critical to the population. The most serious include the destruction or damages to homes and other buildings, to the road and highway systems, bridges, communications -including the downing of radio and TV towers, to electricity and telephone networkS as well as - last but not least - to agriculture. A very serious consequence has been the contamination of drinking water systems.


Damages to housing:

5. Some 120,000 homes were affected: 15,000 collapsed, other 25,000 had partial destructions, 24,000 had the roofs blown away and 60,000 had partial damages in their roofs. The heaviest damages were sustained in the South Eastern part of the country, although it must be pointed that many of the homes had structural deficiencies. The heavy damages sustained by many homes carry negative economic and social consequences to the affected families and to their communities.

6. Many of affected families have been lodged in schools now closed because of the summer vacation period. The affected families receive food and medical care. Despite the attention they receive, their homes should be repaired at the earliest possible time.

Damages to the electricity and telephone systems:

7. Very serious are the damages inflicted to the power and telephone systems. The storm downed high tension's pylons and electricity lines in all the affected provinces. A spokesman for the Electric Union -the country's power company - said most the generating stations had to halt to reduce or prevent the possibility of damages to the generators. The storm thus caused the failure of the nation's power system, which began to be restored as of 11 July.

8. Efforts are being conducted for the restoration of the east-west national grid. At the same time, brigades are replacing more that 1020 downed poles. 21 whole counties in Cuba were still without electricity service as of 11 July.

Although the telephone grid functioned in several areas during and after the storm's passage, 28 cities and towns in Eastern and Central Cuba still lacked as of 11 July telephone connections to the rest of the country and the outside world.

In Matanzas and Cienfuegos provinces, in central Cuba, at least 14 communication towers (10 radio and 4 television) were downed and twisted by the ferocity of the winds.

Damages to the road and railway systems:

9. Communications by road and rail have suffered heavy damages in Eastern and Central Cuba. A major road linking Santiago de Cuba and Granma provinces were cut by avalanches from the Sierra Maestra mountain range caused by heavy rains and winds.

The same situation is repeated in other provinces, where fallen trees and utility poles have interrupted communications. Some places are still only accessible by helicopters.

Damages to Agriculture:

10. Damages to agriculture and the food industry have been very heavy in all the affected 12 provinces of Cuba, mainly fruit, vegetable and edible roots. Urban agriculture, a very significant agricultural production system supplying populated areas, has sustained heavy damages. Urban agriculture is very important in Cuba since almost 80% of the Cuban people's lives in urban areas.

Although damages have not been yet estimated in agriculture, it is already evident that they are very serious and undermine the possibilities of the population to purchase produce, meat and pulses. The local economies have likewise sustained heavy damages and its negative impact is now beginning to be felt.

Cienfuegos and Granma provinces are reporting the loss of 27 thousand hectares of the most diverse agricultural crops, a figure very close to the total planted areas. The storm also destroyed agricultural storage containers, structures for farm animals, egg farms and other agribusiness installations.

It must be noted that these are very partial figures. As reports come in from other provinces, the whole picture will be more evident, showing devastating losses in agriculture, including animal husbandry, and food production and processing units.

Damages to the health sector:

11. The health system did not escape from the fury of DENNIS. Even though the building structures of health installations are stronger than average and all precautions had been taken, the brutal force of the winds and heavy rains combined to strike and cause damages to several health units in different provinces. However, medical teams were on the alert nationwide and provided assistance to those in need of it.

Damages to the water sector:

12. Very important are the damages to water and sanitation systems. The lack of electricity has affected the normal operation of water systems. Likewise, many water sources were contaminated (70% of the source in Granma province) by flooding. As a result, two and half million persons lack running water services and rely on water tankers for their supply. Likewise, home water deposits were contaminated and cleaning is underway in virtually all areas.

Cleaning brigades continue removing fallen trees and in general any other debris left by the storm.


13. In general, coastal, mountain and valley areas from Cuba's Eastern tip to the west were the most affected. Low-lying areas suffered from flooding. Only Pinar del Río province and the western part of Havana province escaped from the fury of the hurricane. Granma province was particularly affected by the storm.


14. - 1 535 545 persons were evacuated, 129 626 of them students, as well as 16 873 foreign tourists.

- 978 food preparing centers adequately stocked along with 1,804 evacuation centers were activated. Some 140,000 persons worked in life prevention and evacuation activities, and 1,600 Civil Defense units were mobilized.

- Medical teams and clean-up brigades worked all through the emergency and continue their activities as needed.


Short term:

15. Local authorities report has immediate needs: mattresses, power generators, water purification tables (chlorine), canned food, jerry cans for drinking water and products for plague control.

Middle and long term:

16. In the middle and longer terms as support to the reconstruction and rehabilitation effort the main need is roofing for thousands of destructed homes.


17. The UN System has continued the coordination and information links and exchanges with the Central Command of Civil Defense and the Ministry for Foreign Cooperation (MINVEC). Information clearing and exchange meetings are being held with the UN institutions represented in Cuba, NGOs and other cooperation institutions.


18. For further information, please contact the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Cuba.;;

19. Following the request of the UN Resident Coordinator UN-OCHA has released USD 60,000 for emergency response activities and purchase of relief items.

20. OCHA remains in close contact with the UN Resident Coordinator's Offices in Cuba and will continue reporting as further information is made available.

21. This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

MAP: Tropical storm Dennis warning map

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers:

Mr. Dusan Zupka, Ms.Charlotta Benedek
direct Tel. +41-22-917 16 45, 917 1205

Press contact:

(in GVA) Ms. Elizabeth Byrs, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53
(in N.Y.) Ms. Stephanie Bunker, direct Tel. +1-917-367 51 26


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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