Cuba cleaning up after Hurricane Irma

Cuba is no stranger to hurricanes from June until late November, but nobody had planned for a hurricane like Irma.  The northern part of the country was hit worst by Irma which was a category 5 hurricane when it reached the coast on Friday, Sept. 8 and had passed by two days later. 

Winds reached speeds over 250 km/h and massive amounts of water spilled onto the shores. Hurricane Irma claimed 10 lives in Cuba and more than 100 total.  Many lives were saved as residents evacuated to safer areas during the worst of the storm. Damages caused by the hurricane are estimated to be more than $100 billion according to World Vision, with much of the damage hitting Puerto Rico.

With tourism being a main industry in Cuba, many large resorts were cleaned up quickly after the storm.  Juan Karlos, a guest relations manager at Cuba’s Melia Las Antillas said, “The first hurricane passed on Saturday, even on Monday afternoon we had everything clean and tourists could enjoy the beach.”

However months later, many smaller resorts and other populated areas are still trying to rebuild.  Cuban resident and beach lifeguard Miguel Angel Enriquez Hernandez explained why the hurricanes cause so much damage.  

“The water level gets (higher and higher), and then destroys houses and streets,” said Hernandez.  “Normally the most dangerous (part) of a hurricane is rain. It rains a lot and some houses are old and they fall down.”

Hernandez credited the government with reducing the loss of life to the storm, saying, “Our government is concerned about people and if they think a house is not strong enough to take the wind and rain they will take the people to a safer place.”

The damage caused by Irma was substantial and follows recent trends showing hurricanes getting stronger.  If this trend continues, the devastation caused by these storms will only get worse.

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