Tourists in Eastern Cuba swiftly evacuated in the face of Hurricane Matthew

Posted: 05-Oct-16 18:07

Last Monday over 200, 000 tourists staying in Cuba’s eastern region were swiftly evacuated to hotels in the Jardines del Rey archipelago, as a preventative measure against the foreseen damages of Hurricane Matthew’s passing through the island. After hitting Cuba on Tuesday and leaving a trail of material devastation with no human losses, the eastern part of the island has already started picking up the pieces.

Tourists in Eastern Cuba swiftly evacuated in the face of Hurricane Matthew

A timely move by Cuba’s government and military authorities saw over 200,000 foreign tourists in Cuba’s eastern region being carried to safety over the last weekend and Monday. The preventative measure, taken in order to minimally disrupt the holidaymaker’s Cuba experience (and not because the hotels in Eastern Cuba lacked the infrastructure to sustain the hurricane’s winds) meant that were moved to the dreamy beach enclave of Jardines del Rey, away from the hurricane’s devastating trail.

Hurricane Matthew had its way with Cuba last Tuesday, hitting the eastern region in the late hours of the afternoon and leaving a trail of debris along with heaps of material and natural devastation. But thankfully no human lives were lost or injured in the process, all thanks to the strict preventative measures taken by the pertaining Cuban authorities, who are known to be swiftly proactive and take steps ahead, evacuating the most vulnerable right from the earliest warning. Tragically, other countries in Hurricane Matthew’s path didn’t fare so well, with a total of eight lives lost between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Sadly, Matthew caused a lot of damage in Baracoa, Cuba’s oldest city, with a rich history that dates back to over half-a-century as it was the Spanish conqueror’s first settlement in the island. Despite no human lives being claimed here, Baracoa’s residents came back to a depressing landscape of broken roofless homes, fallen trees, toppled electricity posts and shattered windows.

A testimony from a local taken by BBC World over his mobile phone (given landlines are down all over the city) read:

“It was 10 hours of loud noise, lots of wind. The sea waves reached all the way to our homes.”

A total of 35,000 people were evacuated from Baracoa’s coastal area before the massive storm’s arrival which pounded the land with 140 mile-per-hour winds and heavy downpours.

Cuba has historically received much international praise for their efficient handing of preventative measures to avoid hurricane damage and save human lives. While the former is harder for Cuba’s old residential and public infrastructure to endure (especially when it comes to wooden rural homes) the loss of human lives has always been kept to a minimum thanks to the timely evacuation of people whose homes have structural damage or are deemed at risk of bowing to the hurricane’s will. This time Cubans walked away unscathed once more, at least physically, because the material damage to some of the population’s homes and personal possessions is utterly heart-breaking.

While Baracoa, along with much of Eastern Cuba, dusts itself off from the ashes and slowly works its way to recovery, tourists are welcomed back with open arms. After all, this one part of Cuba that now needs tourists more than ever, a crucial aid to their economy comes in the way of holidaymakers spending their money here.


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