Defense Councils mobilized to prepare for Hurricane Irma

Given the proximity of Hurricane Irma, Defense Councils were activated at all levels in the province of Granma. Photo: Dilbert Reyes Rodríguez

Civil Defense Councils from Guantánamo to Matanzas are implementing necessary measures to protect human life and economic resources.

Preparing evacuation shelters, ensuring supplies of food and drinking water, as well as other actions to minimize potential damage by Hurricane Irma are being prioritized across all territories.


Swift decision making, a thorough analysis of risk mitigation plans, and efforts by heads of Provincial Defense Council (CDP) groups and sub-groups to protect human lives and state resources, were issues discussed in the first meeting of the body in Las Tunas, as Hurricane Irma approached the island.

Work has been underway to ensure supplies of food products, in particular flour, while the production of four tons of crackers has already begun. Meanwhile, resources are being provided to protect warehouses; ensure salt supplies in the north of the province; and transport sugar stocks at the province’s port to safer locations.

Given the threat posed to the north of the province by Irma, the decision was taken to start to prepare educational facilities in the area, which will function as evacuation centers. Likewise, assessments are being undertaken of an important number of crops, and livestock moved to higher ground. Vessels at sea have also been instructed to return to harbor.

Ariel Santana Santiesteban, president of the CDP, stressed the importance of maintaining constant communication between all provincial council bodies and their municipal equivalents.

As such, he noted that in order to protect all human life, municipal defense councils must ensure that they know exactly how many people need to be evacuated.

Meanwhile, citizens are currently working in a disciplined and responsible manner to implement various prevention measures, such as garbage collection, ensuring that elevated tanks are secured, cleaning sewers and drainage systems, and removing objects that could become wind-driven projectiles.


Reviewed during the first Provincial Party Committee meeting in the province, presided by its President, Federico Hernández, were details of the main threats posed by Irma to the territory, home to vast flood plains, a long stretch of coastline along which are located various cities and towns, as well as a large section of the Sierra Maestra.

Such characteristics, according to experts, mean that the territory is more likely to suffer damage from the strong winds, floods and storm surges that the dangerous hurricane is expected to bring. As such, the Provincial Defense Council has drawn up and issued a specific set of major risk measures which must be adopted in every area, and are designed above all to protect human life.

Groups have also been instructed to establish basic conditions in every designated evacuation center, check potable water supplies, the availability of bleach, fuel, medicines, and oxygen in healthcare centers, and that all electricity generators and other resources are functioning correctly.

Emphasis was placed on ensuring food supplies and basic services in communities at risk of being cut off; as well as reviewing all evacuation facilities for people living in remote or hard-to-reach areas.

Meanwhile, the provincial fleet of engineering machinery is ready for possible deployment to the most at-risk areas, with the Provincial Defense Council outlining measures to be undertaken in order to safeguard food supplies, construction materials, fertilizers, and other resources at risk.


With the presence of Army Corps General Ramón Espinosa Martín, decorated Hero of the Republic of Cuba and deputy minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), disaster risk reduction plans for the province of Camagüey were outlined, in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

In order to minimize the impacts, Espinosa Martín urged people to act responsibly and rationally and take measures to protect themselves, their personal possessions, as well as state property and assets.

He highlighted the vulnerability of low-lying coastal areas, zones located downstream of rivers and reservoirs, with the greatest threat posed to those located in the north of the territory.

Tapia Fonseca went on to offer details of evacuation plans and the situation regarding shelters, as well as the availability of transportation, potable water and food supplies.

The official also noted the importance of checking that the over 500 generators in the province are in full working order, especially those located in hospitals and food processing centers; as well as dismantling solar panels in vulnerable areas in order to protect them from damage caused by strong winds.

Meanwhile, other measures include harvesting and protecting crops, stockpiling goods, increasing production of necessary foods for disaster situations such as bread, crackers, spreads and other non-perishable products, as well as ensuring alternative sources of cooking fuel.


The Guantánamo Defense Council called for adopting all measures required to leave no gaps in plans to protect the population and economic resources, given the possible impact of the powerful Hurricane Irma.

Lead by its president, Party Central Committee member Denny Legrá Azahares, the body issued a call for needed steps to be taken to safeguard family belongings, to ensure that the bitter experience of Hurricane Sandy is not repeated.

Denny reported that, prior to the first meeting of the expanded Defense Council, the province’s leadership visited the municipalities of Maisí, Baracoa, Imías and San Antonio del Sur, where residents are still recuperating from damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, to survey preparedness and emphasize measures to be taken.
Nancy Acosta Hernández, vice president of the Defense Council, reiterated the importance of the population joining sanitation efforts.


Protecting the population, in the first place, as well as economic resources, were described as priorities in Santiago by Lázaro Expósito Canto, first Party secretary in the province, given the potential threat posed by the dangerous Hurricane Irma.

Toward this end, dozens of refuge shelters have been readied, to house those who may be evacuated, and several surgical brigades have been dispatched to the municipalities of Guamá and Tercer Frente, to guarantee medical services in the event that communications are cut by heavy rain or mudslides in these mountainous areas.

Public Health authorities are admitting to hospital 108 dialysis and hemodialysis patients who live in remote areas, to avoid interruption of their treatment, while 1,031 pregnant women, nearing term or at risk, will be housed in hospitals or maternity centers

To guarantee food for the population, a special effort is being made to distribute stocks produced locally; keep stores open as long as necessary to ensure access to basic foods; accelerate the harvesting and storing of tubers and vegetables destined for cities; deliver flour to bakeries to prepare bread and crackers; and dispatch bottled gas and other fuels used for cooking.

Given the inclement meteorological conditions, work is underway to return some 12,000 students in boarding schools in Santiago de Cuba to their home communities; to dismantle photovoltaic parks; form chainsaw brigades to prune trees; and activate specialized search and rescue forces.

Expósito Canto noted that given the experience gained during Hurricane Sandy, it is expected that this time work is done rationally, sparing no resource or effort to protect human life, but preparing things well, so things go well tomorrow, ignoring no potential risk of damage that could be caused by the heavy rain, strong winds, or coastal flooding forecast.

Granma news staff, Granma

September 6, 2017

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