The damage left by Hurricane Gustav is slowly beginning to unfold. As reported in today’s Granma (www.granma.cubaweb.cu), Pinar del Rio’s Provincial Defense Committee's preliminary assessment reveals that 120,000 homes are without roofs or have otherwise been severely damaged…that’s more damage than the last four hurricanes to have hit Pinar del Rio, total.
Restoring energy to Pinar del Rio will also be challenging, with 80 electric towers and 600 electric posts down. The situation is actually worse in Isla de la Juventud, which is completely without power. ''100 percent of the electrical grid is damaged,'' de la O (head of Cuba’s electric company) said. ``Totally destroyed.'' Officials have said that it may take over a month to restore power to the island.
Thankfully, no casualties have been reported. Homes have been demolished. Places of work have been crippled. The damage is evident now, but it might be even more evident in the future. The agricultural sector (the prime target of Raul’s reforms) has been severely damaged by Gustav. For the data on the damage to this sector, see Juventud Rebelde’s article on the subject: http://www.juventudrebelde.cu/cuba/2008-09-02/lo-que-la-bestia-no-arraso/
The only place to go from here is forward. Obviously, Isla de la Juventud’s electric grid will need to be completely rebuilt. This is actually something that ALL of Cuba needs. This catastrophe is forcing the government to do things that it should have done ages ago, which is a good thing. Maybe they’ll take the initiative with other provinces.
For now, the Cuban people face a monumental clean-up effort and also a monumental task of trying to recuperate their losses in the agricultural sector. Let us keep them in our hearts, minds, and prayers.
The Cuban people are strong, they have endured 50 years of totalitarian rule, they will certainly be able to survive this.