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First Light of Dawn Finds Cuban city of Baracoa Desolated and in Ruins

First Light of Dawn Finds Cuban city of Baracoa Desolated and in Ruins /
14ymedio, Yunier Reyes

14ymedio, Yunier Reyes, Baracoa, Cuba, 5 October 2016 – A grief-stricken
Christopher Columbus – who first touched land in the Americas in this
place – observes the chaos that emerges with the first rays of the sun
in Barancoa. The sculpture of the sailor stands a few yards from the sea
and shows the marks of having confronted the winds of Hurricane Matthew
on Tuesday night. Columbus has stood up to this new and harrowing
voyage, but the same cannot be said for the city that unfolds before his

People come out into the streets with tear-filled eyes and deep despair.
A resident holds her head in her hands while looking at the remains of
her modest house some 200 years from the sea. “Mi’jo (my son) this is
going to take me the rest of my life to rebuild,” she says, to the few
residents who have dared to venture forth this early in the morning.

In Baracoa the ground is covered with branches, the seafront Malecon is
missing pieces that have come down several yards away, the roof of the
Primada Vision telecommunications building has flown off in several
pieces and its metal tiles litter the streets. The electrical wires are
down and entangled in the columns of houses that were once standing.

A few people rummage here and there to rescue pieces of wood, nails and
tiles that will allow them to rebuild their lost roofs. The inhabitants
of the area have learned long since that state help to the victims will
be too late, plagued with the “diversion” of resources, and frequently
there won’t be enough for everyone. For now, they try to do whatever
they can for themselves.

“If they don’t deliver quickly, I don’t know what is going to
happen,” complains a young man who has improvised a rod with a metal
hook on the end as he digs through the wreckage in search of “planks to
cover the little room.” He says he has two small children who are
sheltering with his wife at a nearby , but he did not want to go.
“I couldn’t leave the house unattended, someone had to stay to keep an
eye on the refrigerator.”

The city’s central park is a sequence of fallen trees, like soldiers
killed in a battle with the gusts of the hurricane that topped 130 miles
per hour. The drugstores like El Turey also lost part of their roofs and
even the houses under construction have seen their few walls, raised
with so much effort by their owners, collapse.

For Baracoa’s residents this has been the longest night in memory. Many
barricaded themselves in their homes with a few cans of food and some
crackers to resist Matthew’s onslaught. High waves covered the Malecon
starting in the afternoon and in the coastal areas few dared to stay in
their homes for fear that the sea, in addition to taking all their
belongings, would also take their lives.

The most stubborn refused to move from their homes and in the midst of
strong winds the firefighters had to rescue several families trapped in
partially collapsed buildings.

Official figures say that 749 homes have been affected by flooding, four
of them completely destroyed and nine partially destroyed. More than
38,000 people were evacuated, the majority of them to the homes of
family or friends.

The legendary La Rusa lost its roof, and a part of its structure
is seriously damaged. The emblematic lodging is in ruins this morning,
barely standing. The Castillo Hotel suffered structural damage due to
the onslaught of the winds.

Saying goodbye to the few belongings the inhabitants of this poor city
possess has been very difficult for many. You can take almost nothing
with you to the shelters and people worry about the mattress left at the
mercy of the rains and possible thieves, those ne’er-do-wells who prey
on natural disasters.

When the sun set, you couldn’t even see your hands in front of your
face. Like a ghost town, Baracoa was plunged into shadows, crossed by
howling winds and with no connections to the rest of the island. The
phones were cut, electricity stopped flowing and prayers rose asking
that everything would pass “quickly and without deaths.”

Just two months ago Baracoa celebrated the 505th anniversary of the
foundations of its first villa. Today, they are facing the challenge of
rebuilding it.

Source: First Light of Dawn Finds Cuban city of Baracoa Desolated and in
Ruins / 14ymedio, Yunier Reyes – Translating Cuba –

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