On 27 January 2019, slightly more than a year after Hurricane Irma hit Havana, Cuba, a severe tornado hit five Havana municipalities. The EF4 category tornado (using the Enhanced Fujita Scale with a maximum intensity of 5) produced winds of up to 300 kilometers per hour and travelled at a speed of 46 km/h to cut a 400 to 600-meter-wide path of destruction.
In Havana, a city of more than 2 million inhabitants, the tornado swept across the municipalities of Cerro, 10 de Octubre, Regla, Guanabacoa and Habana del Este which totalized 668,822 in population. From that total, some 253,682 living in 14 People’s Councils suffered direct impact and have been devastated by the damage.
Of the total number of people evacuated, some 9,413 are living in the homes of relatives and friends and 524 are in 15 shelters authorized by local governments.
Despite the early warning from the Institute of Meteorology of the impending complex climate conditions, the impossibility of predicting an event of this magnitude and intensity caused the loss of six lives and injured 195 persons, leaving over ten people in critical condition.
The rapid mobilization of Civil Defense allowed the urgent evacuation of the 10 de Octubre Obstetrics-Gynecology Teaching Hospital to other healthcare facilities. This maternal hospital has the second highest birth rate in the country and the highest in the province of Havana. Furthermore, it is the provincial centre for underweight (less than 1500g) newborn care, intrauterine growth retardation and other perinatal conditions.
In the midst of the disaster, with violent winds that tore off doors, broke windows and destroyed everything in its path, the health staff protected the lives of 195 hospitalized mothers and their children, including 14 neonatal patients and four critically ill patients.
The population of the affected areas was left without basic services of water, electricity, and telephone after the tornado hit, with estimates of more than 144,000 without electricity, some for more than a week. More than 16,000 telephone service complaints were reported and cellphone service and internet connectivity were also affected.
Initial assessments point to critical impacts on housing, water tanks, electrical services, health institutions and educational centres, institutions that store or distribute food, industry and other important economic sectors of the country. A week after the tornado, more than 200,000 cubic meters of debris had been collected from the streets of Havana with reports of more than 1,600 fallen trees throughout the devastated area.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.