Nearly 10,000 Havana residents displaced by tornado


Roughly 9,920 Havana residents were forced from their homes by the tornado that hit the Cuban capital 10 days ago, killing six people, injuring 195 others and damaging more than 4,800 residences, Cuban official media reported Wednesday.

Most of the displaced people are staying with relatives and friends, according to a briefing delivered during a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

The latest report on the effects of the tornado on the capital districts of Diez de Octubre, Regla, Guanabacoa, Habana del Este and San Miguel del Padron nearly quadruples the initial estimate of 1,238 homes either destroyed or significantly damaged by the twister.

And the number continues to grow, with dire implications for Cuba’s already acute housing shortage.

The president told ministers to prioritize the repair of relatively minor damage to buildings that remained largely intact.

The government is selling construction materials at half-price to the affected families who have registered at the help centers set up after the tornado, which have assisted more than 5,000 people so far, Finance Minister Meisi Bolaños said.

For people whose homes were damaged beyond repair, the government has promised to set up sites to accommodate temporary quarters.

Havana was surprised the night of Jan. 27 by a intense tornado that tore through five eastern districts with winds of 300 km/h (186 mph).

It the first tornado to hit the Cuban capital since 1940.

The storm toppled some 1,600 trees, which is complicating the cleanup in affected areas, though power and water service has been restored.

Havana Mayor Reynaldo Garcia said authorities have set up 28 centers to receive donations of goods for the people displaced and described that process as becoming progressively better organized.

Within hours of the disaster, Cubans both inside and outside the country mobilized to aid victims without waiting for the government to swing into action.

Some would-be Good Samaritans posted on social media that they ran into problems with local officials who rejected private donations, though the government later attributed those incidents to “confusion” and said that all donations would be accepted.