Hurricane Irma survivors: Everything is beneath rubble

By: 
CARE
A woman sits beside a storm-damaged tree in Caibarien, Villa Clara, Cuba (all photos are from Caibarien)

Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms in decades, left a devastating trail particularly along Cuba’s northern coast. CARE’s assessment teams report that some communities are still completely cut off. In some communities along the north coast at least half the homes have been partially or totally destroyed. High winds have blown off roofs while flooding washed away personal possessions and household contents. Power and telephone lines are down and schools, fields, buildings and key infrastructure have been impacted.

People standing in rubble from damaged houses

“The extent of the damage is becoming more and more alarming,” says Richard Paterson, CARE’s country representative in Cuba. “Extended electrical outages are beginning to affect people’s access to clean drinking water and food.”

The UN reports that 3.1 million people are without water service. Cuba’s agriculture was also hit hard with more than 10,000 hectares of food production damaged.

What is it like to experience a storm like Irma? This is what some of the affected people told us.

I had never seen so much wind. It was the longest day of my life, and it was even worse when I saw my house had been destroyed. What am I supposed to do? I have three children. – Leocadio

As you can see, the walls of my house crumbled and the whole roof is gone. We had water up to our waists – I felt really scared when I saw how everything was – even the mattresses were ruined due to the water. – Maria

People outside damaged house

I don’t know what to tell you, I still can’t believe it. It is sad to lose it all – to wake up and see that everything is beneath rubble and bricks and your personal belongings are wet. All I have left is to move forward, we can’t do nothing but fight. – Maribel

I feel very bad, both physically and emotionally. I just went through cancer surgery and now with such a disaster I have no idea of when I’ll be able to get out. I lost part of my house and most of the things I own got wet. I know the situation which the country is in is serious, since many places have been affected. If I were to receive aid, the most important thing for me would be with the walls that collapsed and of course, a roof. – Magalis

Storm damaged house

The most important thing here is that nobody was harmed and I thank God for that, I hope we can recover from this as soon as possible. One of the things that stunned me the most was the strong wind. It was truly surprising and terrifying. Luckily, I did not lose anything, however a vast number of people in my community have lost a lot. The most important thing to me is to be able to recover from this as soon as possible and to do so we need roofs and things like mattresses, towels and such for the ones who lost everything. – Nilsan

I have never seen anything like this. I don’t know how long it will take for us to recover from this, this a very tough situation. The great damage that the roofs of the houses suffered, is without a doubt, one of the biggest problems the people now have” – Mercedes

Storm damaged trees beside a road

How CARE is helping

The Cuban government is leading relief and recovery efforts. In advance of Irma, more than two million people were evacuated in government centres or the homes of friends and relatives. Local authorities are now working to restore power and clear roadways from debris so people can return home.

CARE and local partners are preparing to support these efforts with emergency programming initially targeting 20,000 people in the provinces of Villa Clara, Camaguey and Holguin. CARE will focus on clean water, hygiene and sanitation support and also look to help people with shelter assistance to repair damaged homes.

Donate now to our Hurricane Irma Emergency Appeal

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.