There is a hurricane, Matthew, in the Carribean. Up until now it was predicted to hit directly on Santiago de Cuba, but according to the latest forecast it seems like it is passing over Cuba further to the east, on less populated areas. However, it is a big hurricane and it will affect large areas in eastern Cuba. It is also a very slow hurricane with very strong winds, so when it comes it will probably stay for a long time, making it really dangerous. The speed forward is for the moment 7 kilometres per hour, a normal person walks faster, but the wind speed is 240 kilometres per hour.
I have during the last days witnessed how the Santiagueros are preparing themselves and their city. In 2012 Santiago was devastated by the hurricane Sandy and the Santiagueros have this in fresh memory. The only thing on people’s minds for the last days has been the hurricane, and everytime they talk about it they also start talking about Sandy and what happened to their house or how they delt with it. It is still a very vivid trauma.
Understandably the Santiagueros are worried. I’m not very worried about the hurricane itself, I know that the Cubans know how to survive hurricanes, but I am worried about life after the hurricane for my friends in Santiago. After Sandy there was no electricity for 1 month, and electricity, food supply and water are definitely at risk for a long time. I already had plans and a reservation for a bus to leave to go to Havana on Sunday afternoon, so personally I will be safe.
Matthew is forecasted to hit Cuba during the night between Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th of October. Since Friday the 30th of September the city is practically under siege. The university closed already Friday, theaters closed and everybody prepared their workplace and their home. I guess the reason for closing the university already Friday was to give people who live outside of Santiago time to return to their homes, and also to give the people working at the university time to prepare both the university itself but also their homes.
A quiet sunrise on Saturday morning.
I tried to go to see a dance show on Friday night in one of the theaters of Santiago de Cuba, but they had already closed due to the approaching hurricane. When I write this it is Sunday afternoon, the sun is shining and the weather is great, so it seems to me a bit exaggerated to close already Friday. I can’t decide if they just use the hurricane as an excuse not to work or if it is really necessary to suspend all activities that early in order to prepare. Most cultural venues where closes already Friday and Saturday, but bars where still open on Saturday evening.
On TV and radio there is continuous information about the hurricane and about the work being done. There are also repeatedly messages to the public that it is a state of emergency and what people should do to prepare. Also cars with speakers on the streets are broadcasting the same message.
The Santiagueros are buying food, biscuits, condensed milk, candles, gas and matches. They are also being told to make sure they have water but it is not that easy in a city with a shortage of water. They are also being told to stock on batteries for radio and lamp, but there are no batteries to be found. This picture is from one of the shops on Saturday, a lot of people stocking up on food. Interestingly enough the shop is called La lucha, see previous post about that.
On this picture you can see two different tables piled with biscuits, the owners are taking a break in the shopping at the bar where I was on Saturday at noon.
The Santiagueros are preparing their houses and remove everything that could fly away. Some even remove the roof before the hurricane, this is neighbours of mine who removed the roof of their rooftop terrace.
In the city some trees are being cut so that they will not fly away or fall down on the houses.
Windows are being prepared all over town, both private houses, shops and institutions. The mostly put tape in the shape of X on them, but in some cases they also put up cardboard. In the shops they also remove everything from the windows.
The authorities are sending in groups from the rest of the country to help the eastern parts. I think they send in different type of groups to help clean up afterwards but I know they send in electricians to try to restore the electricity as fast as possible.
I know the Cubans are handling this in the best way possible, they are used to this. Hurricanes are passing over Cuba, especially eastern Cuba, regularly. I now only hope that this hurricane will be over fast and that the aftermath will be easy. Please pray or think or whatever it is you do on the people of Cuba and the rest of the Carribean in the coming days!