October 14, 2016
It is with good reason that those of us who love and support Cuba or who are capable of human empathy, and are just humanitarians, feel great anxiety when we hear of a tropical storm approaching the Caribbean. The odds are that that storm, nurtured by the warmth of that sea, will grow into a hurricane of violent or even disastrous proportions. Great are the odds too that it will attack one or more of the several islands countries that come to life there, doing damage to them that is vastly disproportionate to what they can afford to repair.
Even more likely is the chance that one of those targeted islands will be Cuba, the largest of the Caribbean countries, washed by the Caribbean and the Atlantic and stretching toward the Gulf of Mexico. So large, in fact, and occupying such a meteorologically strategic space that severe damage to the island’s people and property can be done by a hurricane that hits any of the island’s cardinal points or points in between.
Nevertheless, when a hurricane makes its cruel way through the Caribbean, if we were to depend on North American media, we wouldn’t know where to find it. At one point we might know that a hurricane of the strength and reach of Matthew is hammering Haiti, at another the Dominican Republic, and then the fixation becomes the southern U.S.A.. For some time we in the English-speaking world do not know how Cuba fared, not until a friend such as Susan Hurlich, resident in Havana, gives us her kind and informative first report.
The reporting is indicative of the level of empathy the media wish to reflect or stimulate. We know that there are strong feelings of goodwill toward Cuba throughout Canada. Very many people will be sorry to hear, as Susan has informed us in detail, the Eastern end of the country, the province of Guantanamo especially, suffered catastrophic damage from Matthew.
Some 80% of the people lost their homes. Many public buildings were destroyed, food crops were ruined in the fields, food supplies were spoiled in storage; electrical and other energy supplies were made useless. Because of washed-out roads, fallen bridges, it has been difficult for emergency food supplies to get to people; but as of October 9th, thanks to volunteer linemen and other workers from other provinces, and now to the arrival of a warship from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with 375 tons of supplies, the immediate crisis is beginning to ease.
Miraculously Cuba did not surrender a single fatality to Matthew.
Typically, Cuban volunteers were on their way to Haiti, which suffered, the day after Matthew passed, a horrific blow with some 1,000 deaths, total devastation and disease making its ugly presence promptly known.
We recognize the help given to Haiti by the U.S., which itself suffered 38 deaths from Matthew.
We are looking for a way of getting charitable tax receipts for donors. We welcome suggestions. In the meantime, let us be as energetic, imaginative and generous as we can be in our efforts to win against Matthew. The situation is dire.
Keith Ellis, Chair Hurricane Matthew Relief and Reconstruction Campaign