By Alejandra Garcia on June 13, 2023 from Havana
Heavy rains are leaving a desolate panorama in eastern Cuba. Entire communities are buried under thick mud and water due to the torrential and prolonged rains that have been lashing the country for the past weeks. So far, six people have lost their lives in the floods, and more than 39,000 are sheltered in the homes of neighbors, relatives, or state facilities, according to official reports from the government.
Overflowing rivers and creeks, landslides, interruption of roads, and significant damage to homes are the most severe damages reported by authorities. The sudden overflowing of rivers and streams, landslides, and road blockades caused more than 25,000 people to be stranded and cut off in isolated communities.
“The floods are unprecedented,” a resident of Jiguaní municipality, Granma, told the press and warned that today’s scenario is reminiscent of that left by the deadly cyclone Flora of 1963, the second largest catastrophe ever recorded on the island.
So far, the aftermath is devastating. Thousands of homes were affected, some of them fully covered by water, and hundreds of families lost all or part of their belongings. The Department of Agriculture is reporting that over 11,400 hectares of sugarcane and food producing land have been completely inundated. Areas that had been suffering severe droughts are now facing the exact opposite with equally disastrous results. Preliminary reports show considerable losses in beans, maize, and yucca crops. Thousands of families have lost basic home items, such as mattresses and refrigerators.
Despite this latest blow that Cuba is having to deal with there has been a flurry of hopeful images circulating in recent days: an elderly woman in the arms of a rescuer, who moves through knee-deep muddy waters; a girl in a small boat being pushed to a safe area by a group of neighbors; villagers carrying on a raft the few belongings they were able to rescue from their homes.
Once again the solidarity of the Cuban people is being put to the test as it happens every time the island faces a hard situation. During the most critical moments of the pandemic, government and volunteer support groups were created to receive and send donations to the most affected areas. This was the case in Matanzas, for example, when its hospitals began to be saturated with COVID cases while the country faced a deficit of medical oxygen due to not being able to procure parts for the equipment because of the blockade. Entire communities devoted themselves to collecting medicines, medical supplies, food, sheets, towels… to be sent to the hospitals.
And those hard years of Covid are not the only example. It is common for these initiatives to occur after every scourge of nature or in unfortunate accidents. For decades, Cubans have developed the instinct to share the little they have with those who have lost everything, especially in recent years, which have been marked by shortages of all kinds.
Every community in the country -and I am a witness to this- is collecting all kinds of clothes and objects that can be useful to those who lost everything right now. The word spread among the neighbors in my block, and we started collecting toys, coats, cleaning products, and canned food. The head of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), who is in charge of receiving the donations, in my area can barely walk through the living room of her house because of so many packages that people have been delivering spontaneously.
Everything can be summed up in a phrase from Che, shared today by Gerardo Hernandez, National Coordinator of the CDRs, on his Twitter account: “The true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love”.
The nightmare in the East of the country is apparently not over yet. Authorities and Civil Defense agencies have warned that the risk of heavy rain will remain high, coupled with possible landslides in mountainous terrain and flash floods in flat, poorly drained urban areas and near rivers and streams. However, no matter how much more difficult the scenario may become. Everyone matters and no one will be left behind. Cuba has already given proof of this.
The intensity and extreme nature of these rains this early in the season can only be attributed to the affects of global warming that our beleaguered earth is having to endure like never before. While this flooding continues in Cuba massive fires in Canada with high winds has displaced 120,000 people; many from rural indigenous communities. Everything is connected and the Canadian fires created code red air quality in the Northeast of the US to the point that for several days New York City had the distinction of having the worst air quality than any place on the planet. Meanwhile the heads of corporations, who are most responsible for climate deterioration, continue to play their fiddles like Nero.
Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English