Cuba: Emergency response to the tornado in Havana RRF 2/2019
On the evening of Sunday 27 January 2019, strong winds and torrential rainfall battered parts of Cuba, including the capital city of Havana. Amid the stormy weather, a powerful tornado ripped through parts of the city causing significant damage. The severe weather has been blamed for at least eight deaths while more than 190 others have been hospitalized with varying injuries, according to Reuters. The tornado was classified as an F-3 by the Cuban Center for Meteorology, with estimated winds of 155-199 mph. The tornado is the strongest to strike Cuba in nearly 80 years, since a Category F4 tornado struck the town of Bejucal in December 1940. Other reports from the city indicated that cars were overturned, trees were uprooted, and homes were damaged by the severe weather. As of Monday afternoon, around 500,000 people were still without power and 200,000 were without water as emergency crews continued repairs following the storm. Damage to Hijas de Galicia Maternity Hospital forced patients and staff to evacuate shortly after the storm on Sunday night. Six people were reported dead and 195 injured, with 1,238 houses affected. 11 health institutions and 46 schools were damaged and 21 day care centers were affected. The electricity and phone services were destroyed. The government , faith based organizations and the population in general are working in the recovery process, and providing sanitation and rehabilitation of basic services such as electricity and water and sanitation. The government is providing food rations to the affected population. Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment have reports that donations from outside the island for storm victims can be made by national or regional governments, companies, NGOs, or individuals through the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment to ensure that relevant tax and tariffs exemptions are applied and that donations are distributed to those in need. The Venezuelan government sent 100 tons of humanitarian aid, containing building materials and equipment.
The tornado has critically disturbed the life in the affected areas, where the impacts are more severe for affected people with special needs including people living with disabilities, elderly and children who require additional support to access assistance. According to data collected by the government authorities there are severe damages to houses and other infrastructure, the affected households have lost their basic household items, including water containers. Water distribution systems are also affected. Lastly, due to deterioration of residual water and excreta management systems, the affected population is at risk to water and vector-borne disease. Elderly, children and women are among the most vulnerable persons affected who show signs of post-disaster distress. The most pressing needs are housing and public infrastructure repairments, WASH, Food security, non -food items and psychosocial support.