BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Appeal to help Cuba hurricane victims
Cow grazes in wreckage of Cuban home
More than 60,000 homes have been damaged
The International Red Cross has launched an appeal to help thousands of people made homeless after two hurricanes hit the west coast of Cuba less than a fortnight apart.

Hurricanes Isidore and Lili battered the whole country, especially the tobacco-growing province of Pinar del Río and the nearby Isla de la Juventud, causing widespread devastation.

Cristina Estrada, a regional spokeswoman for the Red Cross, told BBC News Online that only the country's prompt and well-organised evacuation procedures ensured no-one was killed.

Red Cross Workers in Cuba ( photograph courtesy of the International  Federation  of  Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)
Red Cross workers are trying to help an estimated 10,000 people
"In any other country in the region it would have been a disaster in terms of loss of life," she said.

But she added that an estimated 5,300 people were now living in temporary shelters, and many homes were still without electricity and running water.

The aid agency's appeal aims to help at least 10,000 people affected by the hurricanes, providing basic roofing materials, bedding and cooking equipment.

'Wiped off the map'

The United Nations estimates that 60,000 houses have been damaged by the hurricanes - 8,000 of which have been totally destroyed.


The key issue is trying to get people in temporary shelters back to normal life

Cristina Estrada, International Red Cross
Many of these were homes in low-lying coastal areas which were flooded by rising sea levels.

"Some fishing villages were wiped off the map," said Ms Estrada.

"People could not take anything with them, so when they returned to their homes everything they had was destroyed.

"The key issue is trying to get people in temporary shelters back to normal life."

More than 7,300 Red Cross volunteers have been mobilised to help in the aid effort.

Efficient system

While emphasising there was still a lot to do, Ms Estrada also had praise for the Cuban Government's efficient clean-up process.

When she visited Pinar del Rio just a few days after the hurricanes, felled trees had already been removed from the roads and much of the rubble had been cleared away.

Volunteers in the prevention effort ( photo courtesy of the International  Federation  of  Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)
Cuba's preventative measures almost certainly saved lives

"Here people know what they have to do," she said.

"There is 24 hour information on television which tells you the latest news of the hurricane, and which shelters to go to.

"It is proven that this type of disaster preparation saves lives," she said.

Previous hurricanes

Isidore was the first of the two hurricanes to hit Cuba, on 20 September.

Heavy rains and winds of up to 160km/h (100mph) battered the west coast, uprooting trees and damaging buildings.

The storm generated about 63cm (25in) of rain in 24 hours, damaging tobacco stocks, the source of the best leaves for Cuba's famed cigars.

Less than two weeks later, on 1 October, Hurricane Lili caused further destruction.

In all, more than 350,00 people were evacuated from Pinar del Rio and Isla de la Juventud.

Cuba is used to hurricanes - only last year Hurricane Michelle battered the island, killing five people and causing $1.8bn damage.

See also:

30 Sep 02 | Americas
21 Sep 02 | Americas
02 Oct 02 | Americas
18 Sep 00 | Science/Nature
Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes