While there has been plenty of media coverage of the destruction caused by the recent Hurricane Matthew, the strongest hurricane since 2007, as it moved up the eastern seaboard of the USA, not much has been reported about other victims of the hurricane. It hit Jamaica leaving destruction and a few fatalities and then headed for Haiti.
The Category 4 hurricane headed for the southwest tip of Haiti, with some people making their way to churches and schools, as the only form of shelter. Others stayed in their homes for fear of losing their possessions.
Several villages were completely wiped out and over 1,000 lost their lives. The threat of a return of cholera, first introduced to Haiti by UN peacekeepers, is real.
After Haiti, Matthew headed for eastern Cuba and the coast of Guantanamo Province. Cuba’s experienced Civil Defence organisation had already swung into action, predicting accurately the course of the beast.
The main populated area that lay in Matthew’s path, was the coastal town of Baracoa as well as the many coastal villages that would be prone to flooding. People from those villages were evacuated to Guantanamo City and into purpose-built refuges.
In Baracoa itself, TV stations ran a continuous loop telling all the residents to evacuate and not to use the shelters in the town, as this was an extremely strong storm. They were evacuated to safe mountain villages while loudspeaker vehicles broadcast the message in case anyone had not seen the TV warnings, and teams went door to door to get everyone out.
Matthew reduced Baracoa to rubble, but not a single life was lost. Waves 24-foot high flooded the town as a result of the storm surge, causing unbelievable damage.
The fact that there were no fatalities proves the power of organisation and class mobilisation that Cuba’s Civil Defence workers regularly bring to hurricanes and other disasters.