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Hurricane Gustav leaves behind a path of destruction in Cuba

© UNICEF Cuba/2008/Calero
Families displaced by Hurricane Gustav gather after losing their homes and belongings.

HAVANA, Cuba, 5 September 2008 – Hurricane Gustav, one of the most devastating hurricanes to strike Cuba in 50 years, hit the island hard overnight on 30-31 August.

Thanks to a well organized preparedness plan carried out by the Cuban civil defense service, there was not a single human death reported. However, Gustav has left a path of destruction in two of the most severely affected areas, the Island of Youth and the Province of Pinar del Rio.

“The images transmitted by the media, no matter how good they are, will never be able to show the real dimensions of the catastrophe,” said one journalist on the scene. “Hundreds of houses have been destroyed, millions of trees have been knocked down in the mountains, villages have been completely devastated.”

© UNICEF Cuba/2008/Mitjans
According to official reports, 100,000 homes in Cuba were severely damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Gustav, and 60 per cent of families in the affected areas lack electricity.

As a part of the United Nations team in Cuba, UNICEF is monitoring the needs of hurricane-affected children and adolescents, and their families. The UN Resident Coordinator is issuing daily reports on the situation as field staff carry out a preliminary evaluation of the damage caused by Gustav.

‘The worst I have ever seen’
Preliminary data provide a picture of the hurricane’s widespread impact:

  • 60 per cent of the territory in Pinar del Rio has been directly affected and the remaining area has sustained some damage
  • 100,000 homes have been severely damaged or destroyed, according to official reports
  • Telephone and broadcast communications in many areas have been cut off
  • Electricity has not yet been restored for 60 per cent of families in affected areas
  • Access to safe water and sanitary facilities has been severely limited due to the loss of water tanks in multi-family and individual homes
  • Food supplies have been badly hit as a result of the destruction of food cellars, grocery stores and bakeries.

“There are a lot of people working to recover all that has been lost, but it is likely to be very difficult,” said Esther, a 75-year-old resident of Pinar del Rio, standing amid a web of fallen electric cables. “I’ve lived here since I was born,” she added. “This is the worst I have ever seen.”



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