Hurricane Sandy hit Cuba at dawn on October 25, destroying homes and crops, and displacing thousands of people.
“Despite Cuba's highly effective civil defense system, Sandy caused very serious damage,” says Irène Manterola, Handicap International's field program director in Cuba. “The hurricane gathered strength with surprising speed. It also passed through Cuba's eastern provinces, which isn't the usual route taken by hurricanes on the island. The east is mountainous and difficult to access, which made it difficult for teams to evacuate people and goods with any speed.”
“The damage is enormous,” says Irène. “Eleven people died, 15,392 homes were completely destroyed, and 70% of the agricultural production in the hurricane's path was destroyed.”
Handicap International, which intervened following the passage of hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, is preparing to intervene in Cuba again. “We're still assessing the situation to determine the best course of action, but we are leaning towards offering victim assistance to repair the roofs of homes destroyed in the municipality of Banes in Holguin Province.
"We also want to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable people (people with disabilities, pregnant women, older people), who have lost their homes and are living in emergency centers that still need to be equipped with mattresses, hygiene products, and other items.”
52 killed in Haiti
Hurricane Sandy also had a disastrous impact on Haiti, where it left 52 people dead and caused serious damage to homes, roads, and other infrastructure. Within 24 hours of the storm, Handicap International deployed its Rapid Response Mechanism teams to assess the needs of the population and prepare to take appropriate measures.
“We responded very quickly, but the damage is so great that we are expecting our emergency response to continue for a few weeks,” says Laurent Davy, manager of emergency operations in Haiti. “We are working in partnership with the teams from the Haiti Civil Protection Unit and various communities. Everyone is lending a hand. We prepared together for such an event, and the emergency relief effort is being organized as efficiently as possible, but the task ahead is huge.”