Sandy’s forgotten victim: The Caribbean Islands

New York gets all the headlines, but the hurricane's also destroyed stretches of eastern Cuba and southern Haiti

Topics: Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, GlobalPost, Hurricane Sandy,

Sandy's forgotten victim: The Caribbean Islands (Credit: NASA GOES Project)
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global Post HAVANA, Cuba — Hurricane Sandy cut an island-hopping path of destruction through some of the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the Caribbean last week, bringing catastrophic crop losses and new worries of hunger and disease.

Authorities in several countries are still adding up Sandy’s costs, but the storm appears to be one of the most devastating to the region in years. Eastern Cuba and southern Haiti were especially hard hit by searing winds and flash floods.

At least 69 deaths have been reported across the Caribbean so far, including 52 in Haiti and 11 in Cuba. The toll could rise as emergency responders and relief workers reach more rural and mountainous areas.

After battering Jamaica Wednesday, the storm made landfall early Thursday in Santiago de Cuba as a Category 2 hurricane with gusts topping 110 miles per hour. Its ferocious winds shredded roofs in the island’s second-largest city (population 500,000) and sent soggy masonry crashing down into the streets.

At least 130,000 homes in the city and surrounding province were damaged in the storm, according to Cuban officials, and more than 15,000 houses were completely destroyed. Another 52,000 homes were damaged in the adjacent province of Holguin, where swollen rivers flooded towns and turned farms into swamps.

The Cuban government has not given an estimate of Sandy’s overall costs, but some of the island’s key industries appear to be affected. Tourist hotels were wiped out by storm surges reaching 30 feet along Cuba’s south coast, while coffee plants in the mountains were ripped out of the ground.

State media broadcasts showed one massive government warehouse, its roof completely missing, where sacks of sugar awaiting export were stacked to the rafters — and completely soaked with rain.

Granma, Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper, acknowledged “severe damage to housing, economic activity, fundamental public services and institutions of education, health and culture.”

Cuban state newscasts have highlighted government relief efforts in upbeat tones, but President Raul Castro warned that it would take “years of work to recover” after touring the damage.

A multibillion-dollar repair bill could be a major setback for Castro’s economic reform agenda, including plans to slash hundreds of thousands of unproductive jobs from government payrolls.

And Cuban communist authorities have not formally asked for help from international donors and charities. The Venezuelan government has sent a ship with 650 tons of food and heavy equipment for Cuba and Haiti, but some residents in Santiago were reportedly looking to Hugo Chavez’s government for more help.

Rising food prices and a prolonged state of crisis in eastern Cuba could touch off a new wave of internal migration toward Havana, where housing shortages are so acute that the government already restricts provincial Cubans from moving there.

Cuban dissident activists on Tuesday called for Raul Castro’s government to reach out for international aid, allow private religious organizations to distribute more charity, and for a suspension of steep customs duties on food and other relief supplies sent by Cubans abroad or carried in travelers’ suitcases.

Cuba has also been coping with a cholera outbreak and an epidemic of mosquito-borne dengue fever. Health officials in eastern Cuba have been distributing chlorine disinfectant and urging residents to boil water, but power service remains out in nearly all of Santiago de Cuba, where many residents rely on electric stoves.

The spread of cholera is an even greater threat in Haiti, where the disease has already killed more than 7,400 and sickened 600,000. Sandy’s rains sent torrents of water pouring through tent camps crowded with Haitians who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake, and the Haitian government said the flooding had made nearly 20,000 families newly homeless.

Even before the storm many Haitians were struggling with escalating food prices, and authorities reported extensive crop losses in the southern third of the country, where banana trees were flattened and food stores were spoiled.

“The economy took a huge hit,” Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Reuters.

Tourism-dependent Jamaica and the Bahamas were also pounded by Sandy but did not appear to sustain the same degree of damage. Power was restored to all but 60,000 households in Jamaica by Tuesday, according to local reports.

Of greater concern to some tourism officials in Jamaica was Sandy’s damage in the northeastern United States, which is the principal source of tourists for the island.

Nick Miroff is a staff writer at The Washington Post, an NPR contributor and a senior correspondent for GlobalPost.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>