Cuba Reeling But Resilient After Irma Impacts Island

You can learn a lot by what’s not in the news. The US media has a blind spot the size of the largest island in the Caribbean. Perhaps a media outlet doesn’t want to wade into politically charged waters? Maybe a story doesn’t fit a certain narrative? It is more difficult for a person to penetrate the Cuban Embargo than it was for Hurricane Irma, but we’ve been looking closely for over a week and are here to let you in!

More than 2.3 million people and 60,500 dwellings were affected. Major problems facing the island are lack of electricity and access to potable water.

Here's What We Know

  • The Keys in the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus and Villa Clara were the most heavily affected, but these are also some of the least populated areas.
  •  24,250 hectares of crops were damaged and another 350 tons of food was lost
  • The international airports at Havana and Varadero were temporarily closed.
  • 5,134 foreign tourists were evacuated out of the path of Hurricane Irma to Varadero and Havana and 5,491 tourists cut their vacations short and returned home before the storm.
  • 0 tourists were injured.
  • 2,000,000 Cubans were evacuated out of Irma’s path.
  • 10 Cubans lost their lives.

Data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Cuba is well equipped to resist and respond for three reasons...1) It has been weathering tropical storms for hundreds of years.2) It has a very capable civil defense force.3) The Cuban people set the standard for solidarity.

The Frenzy After the Storm

As soon as Hurricane Irma turned North towards the Florida Keys the entire island of Cuba emerged from shelter and started the recovery effort. Even before flood waters receded communities were out on the streets wading from door to door doing the important work of checking in on friends and neighbors.

  • Within 72 hours electricity (and the Internet) was restored to 75% of affected areas.
  • Within a few days the international airports at Varadero and Havana reopened and this coming week (week of Monday, September 18th) flights from the US return.
  • Within a week all but one of the major resorts along the Northern Coast have reopened (and many never closed).
  • The city government of Havana has used the displacement of people to address a long standing housing problem pledging to house people that have been in shelters for decades by 2020.
  • It is projected that most of the country will be ready for tourism as usual by the beginning of October and the most heavily affected areas will be restored by the beginning of the high season in November.

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Working Towards a Calm After the Storm

Hurricane Irma is the strongest storm to hit Cuba since 1939 and the most destructive since 1993. Great damage was done to a vulnerable people in a struggling economy. And, even in light of the heroic efforts of the civil defense forces and the Cuban people the island nation still has a lot of work to do, and still faces threats to its recovery. Responders are racing to reconnect electricity and restore access to potable water to 100% before public health suffers. But, perhaps the greatest threat to Cuba is the perception from would be visitors abroad.

Cuba, with it’s imperfections and troubled past, will always have its detractors and certain outlets will always cast Cuba in the most a frightening light. But, do not be deterred! Your visit and your dollars will never be more greatly appreciated. If you’ve been planning a trip, don’t hesitate and if you’ve been considering Cuba it’s time to pull the trigger!

We at GoodTrip go back in late October and if you or someone you know would like to get aid to the Cuban people please reach out and we can help you do the most good!