HAVANA – Thousands of Cubans are cleaning away the debris this Tuesday and recovering what is left of their homes, hit by a powerful tornado in east Havana that left four people dead and 195 injured, 12 of them seriously, as authorities make every effort to restore electricity and water in the affected areas.
Two days after the disaster, the districts of Regla, Guanabacoa, San Miguel del Padron, Diez de Octubre and Havana del Este still look blasted by the winds of up to 300 kph (185 mph), and in many places cars are still overturned, while roofs and lamp posts remain where they were blown into the streets.
Hundreds of university students and soldiers are helping residents clean up the streets and homes in the five Havana municipalities where 1,238 homes have been affected, of which 347 have had their walls and roofs blown down, according to official statistics.
The loss of these buildings, most of which had been in good condition, tightens even more the housing situation in Cuba, which has a deficit of almost 1 million homes.
Diez de Octubre, one of the areas hit hardest by the tornado, is among the most densely populated municipalities of Havana, which in turn is the most densely populated region on the island (11.1 million inhabitants).
The damage done to some communities in the Cuban capital makes them “look like they’ve been bombed,” according to Cuban army chief of staff, Gen. Alvaro Lopez Miera.
“We’ll try to work on the (affected) homes to repair them as fast as we can,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel told a Cabinet meeting.
According to the latest official data available, more than 200,000 Havana dwellers are still without electricity, of the almost half a million reported on Monday.
More than 90 brigades of electricians are working to restore service with the help of some 30 teams from other provinces around the island.
The Havana government has also arranged the distribution of drinking water in tanker trucks for those left homeless.
The unexpected tornado slammed the east side of the city for 16 minutes last Sunday, Jan. 27, with gusts of wind up to 300 kph and an F4 level – devastating damages – on the Fujita tornado scale (maximum F6).
Hours after the first tornado reports, Cubans on the island and expatriates filled social networks with calls for funds, clothes, footwear and imperishable food to help those affected.