News »

Díaz-Canel interacts with authorities in provinces affected by heavy rain

Canel y ValdesCuban Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez interacted via a May 29 video-conference with authorities in central provinces, which have been severely affected by heavy rain associated with sub-tropical storm Alberto.

Several ministers participated in the meeting and presented preliminary information on damages, which will be clarified when flood waters subside.

Minister of Energy and Mines Alfredo López Valdés reported that some 58,000 people were without electrical service, saying that 60 repair trucks had been working since the dawn hours to restore power, although some areas remain cut off by flooding. He said all material and human resources to address the situation are available.

Regarding the distribution of basic food items, Minister of Domestic Commerce Mary Blanca Ortega Barredo said that fundamental subsidized items were being delivered, starting with the most remote areas, and that stored supplies were being put on the market before schedule, to avoid damage in warehouses. She indicated that some damages to stores, restaurants, and retail centers had been reported.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Julio García Pérez reported that damage to crops is widespread, including plantains, beans, rice, tobacco and vegetables, and that some irrigation systems have been damaged as well, while collection of milk from dairy farms has been suspended in some regions because of inclement weather. He assured that all ripe crops are being harvested and rice paddies are being carefully monitored, adding that sufficient seeds and fertilizer are on hand to begin recovery efforts as soon as possible.

In terms of damage to roads and highways in the country’s central provinces, Minister of Construction René Mesa Villafaña confirmed that several bridges and highways suffered damage due to flooding and overflowing rivers. He reported that teams of engineers and architects were being readied to work with the Ministry of Transport to determine the extent of damages and adopt immediate measures, while making longer term plans for repairs.

Photo: Estudio Revolución
Minister of Transport Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez added that inclement weather and flooding led to the temporary closing of the National Highway at several points, as well as the Central Railway, and the suspensions of national bus service to and from the provinces of Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, and Sancti Spíritus.

For her part, Inés María Chapman Waugh, president of the Water Resources Institute, presented an update on the countries reservoirs, 141 of which are filled to over 90% of their capacity, and all in the central region are releasing water via spillways. She noted that as the rainfall diminishes, significant run-off from the mountains is to be expected, so continued vigilance is needed given the danger of flash floods. Chapman emphasized that preparations must be made for the rainy season that is just beginning, with almost all reservoirs full.

She additionally stressed the need to chlorinate water in the affected provinces, to avoid health problems.

The public health system’s readiness to deal with the situation was confirmed by Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda, who commented that – aside from a few specific cases – services have been maintained in the affected provinces. In particular, he mentioned the April Ninth Hospital in Sagua la Grande, which was severely damaged, explaining that vital services have been reorganized and are available to the population. He emphasized that epidemiological control measures must be reinforced to maintain the stable situation existent to date.

Education Minister Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella detailed the school system’s situation, reporting that some 50 educational centers have been affected, and another 54 are serving as shelters for evacuated families. In five central provinces schools are closed, but work is underway to restart the academic year as quickly as possible, with alternative locations being considered in some cases.

Minister of the Interior Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla Bermejo reported that forces are mobilized in affected provinces, with work directed primarily toward regulating traffic on damaged roads and protecting the belongings of evacuated persons. He said that immediate action has been taken in cases of indisciplined behavior, a result of limited perception of the dangers on the part of some.

Likewise the Revolutionary Armed Forces, as is customary, have joined evacuation efforts to rescue those stranded in isolated areas.

Among details presented by provincial authorities, it was reported that in the province of Matanzas, reservoirs are filled to 70% of capacity; 6,000 persons were evacuated from their homes; and preliminary information indicated that 54 dwellings and some 1,700 hectares of crops were damaged.

Cienfuegos, which remained in the weather alarm category, was described as facing the most complicated situation, with 22 areas flooded and 19 communities cut off, though measures were adopted to protect the population.

Reports from Villa Clara indicated that reservoirs were filled to over 99% capacity; 35 settlements were incommunicado; 21,000 persons had been evacuated; and efforts were currently concentrated on the community of El Santo, in the municipality of Encrucijada, given the danger of further flooding.

A tense situation was being faced in Sancti Spíritus with nine reservoirs releasing water. The country’s largest reservoir, the Zaza, located in the province, had received 1.174 billion cubic meters of water, although rain was subsiding. Some 15,000 people had been evacuated and 78 communities were cut off.

From Ciego de Ávila, reports indicated that the greatest damage occurred in the municipalities of Majagua, Florencia, Chambas, and Morón. All reservoirs in the province are releasing water and some 500 persons were evacuated. The situation here was aggravated by the occurrence of several tornados that damaged a number of homes.

Given this panorama, President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, emphasized that as weather improved, the focus would be on recovery efforts, first of all the reestablishment of basic services, including water, electricity, transportation, and food distribution.

We must conduct a full evaluation of the damages and take advantage of experience gained in work done following Hurricane Irma, such as the organization of mixed brigades and the centralization of paperwork processing, so that the population can quickly receive benefits to repair their homes, he said.

Díaz-Canel added that the return of evacuees to their homes must be organized as soon as possible, or alternate lodging found, so that schools can re-open and the academic year continue, within a short period of time.

He emphasized that vandalism and anti-social behavior that may occur in such situations must be dealt with severely, given the sensitive nature of events, citing the example of speculators who take advantage of the difficult moment to raise prices.

It was also reported that the Ministry of Economy and Planning is working on estimates of the resources that will be needed for the recovery, and these will be sent to the provinces affected, as soon as possible.

Additionally announced were three work groups that would depart from the capital to affected provinces, led by First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers Salvador Valdés Mesa; José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba; and Comandante de la Revolución Ramiro Valdés Menéndez. The first two will head work groups in the center of the country, and the third in the western part of the island.

Díaz-Canel expressed his confidence that, as on previous occasions, the country will emerge from this challenge victorious, confirming once again our ability to react in extreme weather conditions like these, which are increasingly frequent and intense as a result of climate change.


Make a comment

Your email address will not be published. The mandatory fields are marked. *