Baracoa: A Cuban town struggling after hurricane Matthew
HAVANA - As residents of Baracoa, Cuba are still digging out rubble that was left after Hurricane Matthew hit the eastern portion of the country with heavy flooding and strong storm surge, others have taken to the internet to fundraise for aid and to petition the Cuban government to lift import tariffs.
Hit in some areas by 24-foot waves, Baracoa saw hundreds of homes either damaged or destroyed when flooding and the storm surge overcame the city. The power grid was also severely damaged. According to local reports, "the vast majority of homes lost their roofs," as were many of the plantations and fields in the area.
Members of the Cuban military helped clear tinder, boulders, and other large pieces of debris that were blocking the roads.
According to reliefweb.int, 90 percent of the homes in Baracoa suffered damage from the powerful storm and five municipalities in in the province of Guantanamo remain isolated.
Residents in Baracoa say they saw some neighbors leaving their homes with minor injuries. The mostly one-story homes close to the water's edge appeared to take the brunt of the damage. Many larger buildings were flooded and had roofs stripped of ceramic tiles during the storm.
"Hundreds of people from Baracoa, Maisí and other territories to the east of Guantánamo have had their houses partially or completely destroyed," wrote Rosa Martinez for the Havana Times. "Buildings considered strong have collapsed; the structures in front of the seawall in Baracoa lost their doors and windows. State entities in Baracoa such as the La Rusa hotel, several schools, and the Primada Visión telephone center lost their roof covering."
According to residents, they didn’t even have a safe and secure place to hide. They did have the time to prepare themselves or to go to a shelter. But they said that they had never experienced a major hurricane and that is why they were not worried.
After the storm, some people stood amid the rubble of their homes weeping, hugging or staring into the distance, while others scoured through piles of debris for any possessions they could recover.
"I've never seen something like this in my life," local resident said to Curaçao Chronicle reporter in Boracoa. "For more than 200 years, here in this house, nothing like this has ever happened."
The road joining Guantanamo's municipalities of Imías and Baracoa became flooded and impassable.
Baracoa is one of the island nation's oldest and most historic towns, which makes the devastation all the more heartbreaking for residents. It was the first city the Spanish settled after landing on the island and many of the town's buildings have stood since the 1500’s.
The residents are still waiting for the government for help.
Special thanks to our correspondence in Cuba Sayne Moreno Martin for the report and the pictures.