At a moment in which Cuba is engaged in recovering from the enormous damage to its territory caused by hurricanes GUSTAV and IKE and tropical storms FAY and HANNA, powerful hurricane PALOMA lashed at the Cuban central-eastern portion, less than ten weeks after, as a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The losses caused by this hurricane add to the US$ 8.6 billion in total losses left by hurricanes GUSTAV and IKE, as reported today in Granma newspaper.
This map shows the course followed by PALOMA through the Cuban central-eastern territory.
Its entry point into the Cuban territory was the seaport village of Santa Cruz del Sur, on the southern coast of Camagüey province, in the early hours of Saturday, 8 November. Coincidentally, 72 years ago on the same date, that seaside town was struck by a category 5 hurricane which left a death toll of over 3,000 people – reportedly the greatest natural catastrophe in Cuban history. Hurricane PALOMA lunged at Santa Cruz del Sur with wind gusts of 215 km. per hour and mammoth waves that traveled 1.5 kilometers inland.
During its passage through the Cuban territory from the southwest to the northwest, PALOMA weakened as it made landfall and clashed with unfavorable strong winds at altitudes from 10-12 kilometers, causing it to lose force quickly and to come out on the north coast as a tropical depression which subsequently dissolved.
No human lives were lost. The authorities in the affected territories are currently engaged in the preliminary assessment of damage caused by PALOMA.
Measures adopted by the Government of Cuba:
The National Joint Chiefs of Staff of Cuba's Civil Defense, in its Note No. 3 of 07:00 hrs. of Saturday, 8 November 2008, declared the HURRICANE ALERT for Cuba's central and eastern provinces: Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo and the southern municipalities of Ciego de Ávila. Note No. 4 of 08:00 hrs. of Sunday, 9 November 2008, declared the RECOVERY PHASE for the three municipalities of Camagüey; namely, Santa Cruz del Sur, Najasa and Guáimaro. The rest of the Cuban territory resumed its normal activities.
Some 1,200,000 people were evacuated from the danger areas within less than 48 hours, accounting for 10.7% of the total Cuban population; with 18% of them – 220,000 people – relocated in 1,448 shelters and the rest in homes of relatives and friends. In order to undertake this evacuation plan, some 1,763 management bodies were activated and 4,000 means of transportation and 13 trains were made operational. Also in operation were 927 food processing centers and 72 soup kitchens.
Some of the protective measures for the agricultural, livestock and fishing sectors included the transfer of a total of 237,000 animals to less vulnerable areas and the shielding of crops. Mechanical equipment or installations were disassembled and secured (for example, 196 irrigation systems were dismounted and high-sea fishing boats were transferred to safer places).
Priority was given to the control and protection of food supplies in ports, warehouses and stores in order to prevent them from spoiling.
Prior to the weather event, measures were put in place for garbage and rubble collection and disposal, cutting of trees, cleaning of streets and dispatching of medical brigades to the mountain-based municipalities in danger of being cut off from any means of communication. Medicines and first-aid kits were made available; and the communication network ensuring information and the exchange of instructions was appropriately deployed.
The hardest-hit municipalities were Santa Cruz del Sur, Najasa and Guáimaro in Camagüey province and Amancio Rodríguez in Las Tunas province. In Santa Cruz del Sur municipality, the sea waves traveled over 1.5 km. inland, while in Amancio Rodríguez they did so up to 700 meters.
In addition to the specific damage caused in various sectors, there is a large number of personal belongings and assets of all types that were lost, from cooking utensils, clothing and furniture to new household appliances.
The damage caused by this hurricane must also include the expenses incurred in the implementation of the numerous preventive measures and the unearned revenues in some of the country's industries, particularly in tourism.
- A preliminary report indicates the loss of 24.5 caballerías (1 caballería equals 13.4 hectares) of assorted crops, which had already been recovered after the passage of Hurricane Ike.
- Banana is one of the most affected crops, which will require a long period of recovery.
- Large stretches of crops are still flooded.