Cuba begins relief efforts after Irma’s devastating impact

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As Irma was reaching Florida’s coast, Cuba continued to experience strong winds, torrential rains and unprecedented wave surges. On Sunday, flooding continued on the island’s north coast.

The Cuban government has confirmed a total of 10 deaths in the provinces of La Habana, Matanzas, Camaguey and Ciego de Avila.

“We are very sad to know that Irma has left behind loss of life,” said Ines Brill, head of cluster for Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti IFRC. “Today, Cubans are beginning to come back to the streets and go about their lives, but the hurricane has left us reflecting on the increasing impact these natural phenomena have and the influence that climate change is having.”,

The electricity network is still down in most Cuban provinces and the government continues to work on re-establishing power services throughout the island.

In Havana, Irma landed with the force of a tropical storm, damaging electrical infrastructure, which has yet to be repaired due to flooding. Additionally, nearly 400 schools were affected, and one of the main hospitals in the capital, Hermanos Ameijeiras saw flooding on the bottom floors.

Devastated crops

According to AZCUBA, the group responsible for the sugar industry, nearly 300,000 hectares of cane sugar plantations were affected. Some of the fields are completely devastated and nearly 40 per cent of the plants are ruined or damaged.

“So far, we only have preliminary reports on damages, since the conditions on the island did not allow evaluation teams to deploy. The Cuban Red Cross has given full support to the authorities and will continue to do so during the evaluation stage. The IFRC is ready to support them as needed as well,” Brill said.

The Cuban Red Cross continues to provide emergency response, however it’s difficult to fully asses the situation, as electricity and landlines are not yet re-established, including to the Red Cross headquarters in Havana.

Red Cross volunteers continue to support evacuation centres, although in some provinces people are starting to return to their homes. In these communities, the Red Cross will assist in community clean up campaigns, hygiene, sanitation and water management.

Last night, the government lifted alerts in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Pinar del Rio and Isla de la Juventud, while the rest of the provinces were downgraded to the Recovery Phase from Alert Phase.