Cuba prepares for destructive power of Hurricane Irma

Cuba is quickly gearing up face the destructive power of Hurricane Irma in eastern and central Cuba, CBS News’ Portia Siegelbaum reports. 

Civil Defense authorities and the local media is warning that the first rain and wind from Irma’s outermost bands could hit in the early hours of Friday at Punto Maisi, Guantanamo, Cuba’s easternmost point.

As of late Thursday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) had issued a hurricane warning for the provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, and Villa Clara. The core of the hurricane is expected to move between the north coast of Cuba and the Bahamas, the NHC said. 

People protect the windows of a house prior to the arrival of the Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, Cuba, September 7, 2017.

ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI / REUTERS

People were also warned not to be lulled by the apparent position of Irma, instead stressing the size of the storm and recalling that in 2008, Category 4 Hurricane Ike passed north of the extreme eastern town of Baracoa in Guantanamo province. The storm surge and heavy rain totally flooded the city with waves topping apartment buildings along the shore.

Cuba normally gears up quickly for storms with constant advisories on TV and radio urging people to prepare. The Civil Defense, run by a general and the military, jumps into action to evacuate people and animals from low-lying areas, to move food supplies to higher ground, harvest crops quickly and distribute the monthly food rations to people before the storm hits.

Unlike in the U.S., people do not have generators in their homes. On the rare occasion when they appear in a shop, their cost is astronomic. There is no Home Depot where they can buy plywood to secure their windows, no impact glass, no place where they can fill sand bags. It’s hard and expensive to stock up on bottled water and foodstuff that doesn’t need refrigeration or cooking.

The government cuts electricity and cooking gas supplies when the storm hits to prevent fires and damages. A hurricane means no lights, no fans (and its hot here), no cooking, possibly no water at all, spoiled food (most people only have small refrigerator freezers, unusual to have a large standalone freezer).

For the most part people, don’t have vehicles or boats of any size or shape so for evacuations and rescues they are completely dependent on Civil defense forces. But again, here the government usually…

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