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Caribbean: Hurricane Sandy's Wake

As Hurricane Sandy closes in on the east coast of the United States, bloggers in the Caribbean who have already experienced the storm share their experiences.

Cuban diaspora blogger Uncommon Sense collated tweets and photographs from netizens who were on the island when Sandy hit, while Havana Times posted a series of entries telling of continued alerts for rain and potential flooding in the country's central provinces, the postponement of a second round of municipal elections which was originally scheduled to take place this morning, and the devastating damage that took place in Holguin province.

In a post written soon after the hurricane hit, the blog reported:

Preliminary data on the effects of Hurricane Sandy in eastern Cuba shows 11 fatalities, nine in Santiago de Cuba and two in Guantanamo…

Fallen trees and collapsed homes are some of the causes already identified.

Hurricane Sandy touched land in Santiago de Cuba Province on Wednesday night and left the island on Thursday morning from Banes, Holguin.

The blog's most recent update, posted this morning, said that government reports showed “widespread devastation in Santiago de Cuba and Holguin”:

In Santiago, where Sandy entered Cuba from the south, the local authorities reported on Saturday that 132,733 homes, apartments and other buildings were damaged, of those 15,322 were considered totally destroyed. Over 43,000 of the homes lost part or all of the roofs.

In Holguin, the province from where Sandy left Cuba in route to The Bahamas and the USA, an estimated 17,000 homes were damaged, 1,800 totally destroyed and 3,000 without roofs.

There were also many homes damaged in Guantanamo province.

Electric service is still out in many parts of the affected region and hundreds of electric workers from other parts of the country have joined in the effort to restore energy as quickly as possible.

Over a thousand four hundred schools and nearly four hundred health facilities were damaged by the storm’s 105 mph winds.

Meanwhile, Generation Y wrote a post that contained suggestions for the authorities after Hurricane Sandy:

Thursday morning will never be forgotten by thousands of people in Eastern Cuba. The wind, flying roofs, heavy rains and trees falling on streets and houses, will remain as permanent memories of Hurricane Sandy. Some people lost everything, which was not much. For the victims it rains and it pours, literally and metaphorically. Nature intensifies the economic collapse and social problems of this region of the country. So these are the times to redouble our solidarity, to roll up our sleeves and help them rebuild their homes, to divide the piece of bread, and to go all out to contribute to those unlucky Cubans that Sandy left behind.

I think we all know what we can give and do, but I still dare to venture some proposals directed at the Cuban authorities. The decisions they make in the coming days will be crucial to shortening and mitigating the tragedy…

Here are a few of her ideas:

- Eliminate the custom duties for entry into the country of food, medicines, appliances and building materials.
- Ensure that the public is organized to collect, transport and deliver clothes, medicines and other resources to the affected areas.
- Encourage and authorize the collection of funds and resources from Cuban immigrants to bring to the island, both on a personal level as well as a group or institutional level.
- Ask for an assessment by and cooperation from international organizations that provide aid, loans and advice to overcome this disaster.

In comparison, the Bahamas managed to fare pretty well. Rick Lowe at Weblog Bahamas reported:

Just spoke with the family in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, and while there is loss of shingles and a now leak in the roof, so far, so good.

Have not heard from family and friends on Eleuthera and the surrounding islands but have heard no reports of loss of life.

Of course the people of Cat Island seem to have taken the brunt of yet another storm. As a friend pointed out, they are strong people and will bounce back. Let's hope it will will quick and easy for them to do so.

We were lucky here at our house. Trees down in the road that we cleaned up already (pushed them on the side) and the highest gust we clocked was 40 mph.

In New Providence, Womanish Words had a similar experience:

Hurricane Sandy is upon us in The Bahamas…we are having only small, 20mph gusts, interspersed with moments of stillness, so far so good, I think the trees will hold.

Right now, another calm, another little 20 mph gust wooshing in the trees, its quite pleasant. For now.

In Haiti, it was a different story. The Life and Times of the Mangine Many wrote:

We got the east side of the storm which packed inches upon inches of rain.

Now, that can be a problem anywhere, but in a country that is 75% deforested, flash flooding and landslides present unique challenges.

Also worth mentioning– there has been a constant problem with the river banks eroding whenever it floods (read: rains) in Jacmel. To help fix that, someone (the government?) has been doing a bunch of work making a wall to reinforce the river bank. A bit of a bandaid on a bullet wound, eh? (In their defense, the wall was not yet finished, but yeah, didn't hold the water back so well…)

To quote Steve Concepcion (with Praxis Haiti) on this issue, ‘This is why attention to the environment matters.’

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