BARACOA, Cuba – In contrast to two days ago, when Hurricane Matthew was howling through the streets of Baracoa, Cuba, and residents were either evacuated or hunkered down inside their homes, on Thursday this city is abuzz and people, little by little, are beginning what will be a long, slow cleanup and recovery process.
Baracoans awoke on Thursday to good weather and are taking advantage of it to venture out and shop for food and other basic items.
Some businesses have opened their doors and authorities have guaranteed that bread will be available for the public, and – although bread alone is not enough – people are grateful that at least they will not have to worry about one thing.
Residents are scouring the city looking for news of relatives or are continuing to clean up around their homes, after the tremendous rain and wind they experienced on Wednesday with the storm’s passage.
For those who live along the emblematic seaside avenue – known as the “malecon” – in this eastern Cuban city, where the force of the waves and the wind caused the most problems the other day, people are recovering what they can in and around their homes, and for some a lot of patience is required because the sea washed away the access stairways to the upper floors.
In the multifamily buildings in the La Punta neighborhood, residents have set up temporary staircases to access their homes.
One lady, carefully climbing step by step with the help of her son, told EFE that “Those of us who don’t have relatives with houses where we can stay, are spending the night at the nearby Baptist Church. We’re not comfortable here, ... we’d be better off in our homes, but at least we have a secure roof” at the church.
More than 35,000 Baracoans are still staying in the homes of relatives and neighbors, schools and social centers, after Matthew, a Category 4 hurricane as it passed over Cuba, blasted Baracoa starting Tuesday night, making it the zone hardest hit by a Caribbean storm since 2007.
Also on Thursday, hundreds of thousands of people who had been evacuated from their homes in mountainous areas, many of those houses now serious damaged, have begun to return to see what happened to their property and belongings.
Municipal officials told EFE that they still have not been able to quantify the material losses, although they admit they are huge, given all the homes that were damaged or destroyed.
People are cleaning up as best they can, however, and are waiting for the teams and trucks that have been going around collecting and transporting bricks, tiles, trees and chunks of concrete.
“At least we’re alive. That’s something,” sighed an elderly man who, with the help of two other men, was securing the covering of a wooden house on the bank of the Miel River at the entrance to the city, which – for the time being – is inaccessible by land because the bridges were washed away.