Showcasing Cuba’s Hurricane Sandy recovery

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba, May 15, 2015 – The United Nations has unveiled a multimedia application that showcases the work done to help Santiago de Cuba to recover from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which lashed the island’s second-largest province in October 2012.

Learning and sharing lessons is the key to good disaster risk reduction and to strengthening the resilience of communities in the face of hazards such as hurricanes. Cuba is already a recognized leader in the field, and provincial capital Santiago is a national benchmark, being the only Cuban municipality to have so far joined UNISDR’s 2,542-community Making Cities Resilient campaign.

Created by the UN Development Programme’s office in Cuba and the Faculty of Construction of the city’s University of Oriente, the multimedia interface is entitled “The Recovery of Santiago de Cuba after Hurricane Sandy”.

It offers a trove of information on what Santiago did hand in hand with various UN bodies in terms of disaster preparedness, response and recovery, as well as ongoing actions to assess and deal with natural hazard risks. It also examines how good practices and lessons learned can be applied in other cities in Cuba and beyond.

“Thanks to this application, if a similar weather event happened in Santiago or elsewhere in Cuba, we could communicate the experience acquired in terms of what was necessary to bring relief to those affected,” said Israel Lahera, president of Palma Soriano, the province’s second city.

Hurricane Sandy, which battered Caribbean island nations and the United States, killed 11 people in Cuba and affected three million people, or 27 percent of the population.

Total losses were estimated at US$2 billion, making Sandy one of the costliest hurricanes in Cuban history. Overall, in the Caribbean and North America, the damage was estimated at US$72 billion.

The losses in Cuba were mainly due to the hurricane’s impact on homes – almost 22,400 households lost everything, while 135,300 were destroyed partially and close to 63,200 suffered ceiling damage.

In response, the UN and local partners moved swiftly to help reinforce damaged ceilings and thus make homes habitable again, as well as launching a string of other projects to strengthen resilience, using locally-produced construction materials. More than 151,000 families benefitted from such projects. In addition, the region’s hydrometeorological early warning system was upgraded.

In the longer-term, programmes have included strengthening development institutions, receiving services and technical advice from housing institutions, transferring resistant technologies in order to revitalize the small local supply and equipment industry, as well as encouraging community work and contributing to the consolidation of local construction brigades.

“We are working to develop the highest level of sustainability that can be achieved, which is that of the municipalities. All of this contributes to strengthening preparedness and reducing the risk of the population to phenomena such as hurricanes or earthquakes,” said Juan Manuel Pascual, professor at the University of Oriente.

Thanks to significant advances in the recovery of housing and in an overall improvement of the population’s quality of life after the reconstruction programmes, visitors to Santiago can barely see Hurricane Sandy’s footprint.

By Maydelis Gomez, UNISDR – United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

May 15, 2015

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