- Michael Pollack
Updated Irma Reports from Cuba and Details on How to Help/Donate
As you are likely already aware if you are reading this blog, news from Cuba does not readily flow into English-language US media outlets, and rarely in any detail. Even being in close communication with many people in Cuba, the news has been slow to arrive, but in the past couple of days we have finally received some detailed reports of the situation on the ground immediately following the passage of Hurricane Irma, which follow below.
If you are able to help meet immediate needs following Hurricane Irma, donation instructions are found at the end of this post.
From Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba:
"Some parts of Havana got electric power back on today, 13 September, 2017. But not here at the Bishop’s house yet. I can't use my computer to send emails or receive emails. At least I have been able to power up my phone to receive your calls. The three major tunnels of Havana are flooded full of water, making the east-west travel in and out of the city very difficult. The East end of Cuba (Santiago and Holguin, which were hit badly by Hurricane Matthew last year) and the far West end of Cuba (Pinar del Rio) were spared the wrath of Irma and are operational and helping the mid-section of Cuba.
"I traveled to Varadero yesterday, [and] Gerardo visited Itabo [Matanzas Province]. Both areas are badly damaged-- horrible damage. Even the crops and trees in Itabo have been uprooted and mostly destroyed by the winds of Irma. We made up packets of food goods (sardines, spaghetti, etc.) to hand out at the churches we were able to visit-- small and not enough to solve the huge food scarcity these days in Cuba, but enough to give hope to the stunned but hard-working people of Cuba. Also, we carried some blankets, sheets and towels. Please when you come to Cuba in November, ask your travelers to bring such things as sheets, towels, light blankets, pillow cases, batteries, flashlights (the shake-up powered ones are handy), candles, shoes, clothes, baby diapers, Depends [adult diapers], canned foods, et cetera..."
From the Rev. Halbert Pons, Archdeacon of East Cuba, Santiago de Cuba:
"Fortunately, we had no damage here, but the rest of the island is devastated. Yesterday in Nuevitas and Camagüey, there are many fallen trees, but the people are trying to patch up their houses as best they can, with whatever the wind did not carry away. In Nuevitas, Irma destroyed many houses, among them the home of my wife Yeleny’s grandmother. The little that is left of it must be demolished because of its imminent danger of collapsing. Now I am seeing what we can do to help them with repairs. But good and well, I am sure God will provide."
From Pepe Bringas, Dir. Mission Development, Episcopal Church of Cuba:
"Irma was brutal-- it is that simple. Several of our communities were severely damaged. Santa Cruz del Norte was gravely impacted-- there are no words to describe the chaos. According to [a report], the waves reached 150 meters inland and leveled everything in their path. Fortunately evacuations prevented the loss of life.
"Last night they regained electricity and other basic services, although the damage to trees and fallen utility poles, partial destruction of roads and other means of access to and within the area remain. In Santa Cruz a list of people affected has been made, showing immediate need of rooves, mattresses, windows and other construction materials.
"The roof of the church is in a dire situation after so much water was received. With sunrise, the likelihood of collapse seems to have increased. Moisture saturated walls and other minor damage has also occurred. Today represents an imminent danger to people, especially the elderly.
" I believe that in the face of the delay of building permits from the local authorities, [we] must take advantage of the emergency to start the projects-- ethics must be imposed on the bureaucracy. I think we're just at the point to jump forward in Santa Cruz, and we can work with community effort and support from [you] in an effort to integrate relief and development. It would be an experience that would serve as a reference for other areas experiencing a similar situation, such as Esmeralda, Nuevitas, Tabor, Itabo and Favorito [among others].
"So... if something good might come from the passing of Hurricane Irma it will be that it has turned the Church of Santa Cruz del Norte and its community into a model of worship and Christian inspiration, focused on sustainable development-- with a beautiful church sanctuary, embracing values, providing education, food security, access to clean water, economic opportunities, hygiene, health and care for vulnerable people (especially young people, the elderly and people with special needs). Importantly, this will raise awareness and educate the community, by the community, reducing future disaster risks to the community."
In light of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, The Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba believe that a push through red tape (US, but more Cuban) in the very near future will prove particularly fruitful for the people of Cuba, with a particular emphasis on humanitarian needs and on expediting plans already in process. Obviously the need has suddenly and dramatically increased, but so has awareness of people in the United States.
Humanitarian projects currently under discussion relate particularly to health (e.g. water purification & importation of quantities of supplies), safety (e.g. crumbling and damaged Church structures & importation of scarce building materials) and transportation (vehicles, as we are able to fund their purchase-- one having been held in Florida for an extended period of time awaiting entry permission from Cuba).
Water purification projects may prove to be even more desperately needed than before due to water well contamination that tends to occur with heavy rainfall. This was seen following Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012, which caused cholera outbreaks throughout Cuba. The first purification system in an Episcopal Church was installed in August of 2013 in Itabo, and already by January of 2014, hundreds of people were filling water bottles to take home to their families, eliminating the need for boiling (and consumption of scarce cooking fuel) or chlorine tablets (when available from the Cuban government), and resulting in a substantial positive difference in the health of the local population.
Please consider a donation now, which is being facilitated by the Community of the Cross of Nails through the donate button on their main page or directly at this link: Donate via Cross of Nails. In special instructions please write ONLY "HURRICANE IRMA RELIEF". Nothing more, and nothing less. All donations with this designation/instruction will go to the Episcopal Church of Cuba.
If sending a check, please write the check to "Community of the Cross of Nails" and include "Hurricane Irma Relief" in the memo line, then mail to:
c/o Church of the Good Shepherd
P.O. Box 145
Lookout Mtn., TN 37350
The Community of the Cross of Nails is a non-profit, religious corporation under the Laws of the State of Georgia and is tax exempt under Sec. 501(c)(3) of the IRC. Donors are, therefore, entitled to deduct their contributions under Sec. 170(a) of the IRC. Please also read about the peace, justice and reconciliation mission of the Community of the Cross of Nails by clicking HERE.
Episcopal Relief and Development is also working to provide aide following Hurricane Irma throughout the Caribbean, for which donations are being accepted at this link: Donate to ERD.
The Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba
The following media links include images taken in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma:
Univision- "Hurricane Irma rocked Havana, leaving floods and destroyed homes behind. So far 10 dead are reported."
Reuters - "Irma's 36-foot Waves Slam Havana"
NBC News - "Hurricane Irma Carves Path of Destruction in Caribbean"
The Guardian - "Havana Flooded and 5,000 Tourists Evacuated from Coast as Irma Hits Cuba"
Univision News on Cuba - with text machine translated into English