Cuba: Hurricane Paloma - Information Bulletin n° 1

Situation Report
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Glide No. TC-2008-000214-CUB

This bulletin is being issued for information only.

On 8 November 2008 hurricane Paloma lashed the Cuban central-eastern area as a category three hurricane in the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The most affected areas are Santa Cruz del Sur, Najasa and Guaimaro in the province of Camaguey and Amancio Rodriguez in Las Tunas Province.

The Cuban Red Cross (CRC) has been working arduously towards completing the objectives included in the appeal due to Gustav and Ike. However, for this new emergency, the CRC with the support of the Federation has determined that external assistance is not required at this moment.

The Situation

Hurricane Paloma hit the island of Cuba while still recovering from the vast damages caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike and tropical storms Fay and Hanna. The losses caused by this hurricane add to the USD 8.6 billion in total losses left by hurricanes Gustav and Ike, as reported in the Granma newspaper on 8 November.

Before the hurricane's arrival, Cuba's Civil Defence declared a hurricane alert for the central and eastern provinces of Camag=FCey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo and the southern municipalities of Ciego de Ávila. Thanks to the preventive measures taken by the Cuban authorities livestock and other livelihoods were protected.

Coincidentally, 72 years ago on the same date the coastal town of Santa Cruz del Sur, on the southern coast of Camag=FCey province, was hit by a category five hurricane which left a death toll of over 3,000 people. Hurricane Paloma entered the Cuban territory through the village of Santa Cruz del Sur with wind gusts of 215 km. per hour and huge waves that travelled 1.5 km inland.

In less than 48 hours, the Civil Defense evacuated more than 1.2 million people. According to the Granma newspaper, 18 percent of the people evacuated (approximately 220,000 people) stayed in 1,448 shelters while the rest sought refuge with friends and family. More than 72 soup kitchens and 927 food processing centers were opened.

No human lives were lost. Preliminary reports indicate approximately 328 hectares of various types of crops, which were in the recovery phase from Hurricane Ike, were lost. There were disruptions in the sugar and fishing industry. The housing sector also sustained loses, with over 8,000 houses damaged in the municipality of Santa Cruz. The road infrastructure was damaged as well in the provinces of Camaguey and Las Tunas. In Las Tunas preliminary reports indicate at least 670 houses were affected, of which 141 in the community of Guayabal are destroyed.

In the province of Santiago de Cuba due to the flooding of the Contramaestre and Mogote rivers, some 7,000 farmers and four schools were completely isolated. Additionally, the high water level of the Avispero river also isolated some 4,700 villagers of La Plata, La Magdalena and Ocujal del Turquino.

Local authorities along with humanitarian agencies in the field are currently carrying out preliminary damage and need assessments.

The sea penetrated 1.5 km inland in Santa Cruz del Sur in the province of Camaguey. Source: