Cholera in Cuba
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Sandy leaves disease, destruction in Cuba

Sandy leaves disease, destruction in Cuba


The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

SANTIAGO, Cuba — While sections of the East Coast of the United States

are still totaling up the damage from Superstorm Sandy, much of Cuba is

overwhelmed by destruction and disease cause by what one U.N. official

called the most severe storm to hit the island nation in half a century.

Already, outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever have been reported in

eastern parts of the country, with residents in three provinces –

Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas and Guantanamo – saying some municipalities

have been placed under quarantine.

Public health authorities have not yet officially acknowledged the


Meanwhile, storm damage to property was exacerbated by the poor

condition of many buildings.

Even before Sandy struck, officials knew the storm posed a serious threat.

Lazaro Exposito Canto, head of the Provincial Defense Council in

Santiago de Cuba, made a last-minute announcement on television and

radio, warning "it's not looking good. Citizens whose homes are in poor

condition should take precautions and all necessary steps to avoid loss

of life." Few heard his message, however, since most people in the

province had lost power by the time it was broadcast.

Preliminary damage reports, published in the country's youth newspaper,

Juventud Rebelde, indicated that more than 4,200 homes had collapsed,

27,000 had lost their roofs entirely and 17,000 had damaged roofs in the

province alone.

President Raul Castro, who visited the stricken city of Santiago soon

after the storm, heard how local residents managed to survive.

"In the middle of the night, the roof of my house was blown off by

strong winds," one woman told the president. "Thanks to the support of a

neighbor … I was evacuated along with my children, husband and other

neighbors in the mist of the cyclone. By the morning, everything had

been destroyed, houses flattened, and lots of people were crying as

they'd lost everything they owned."

Today, more than a month after the storm, the main concern for many is

the spread of disease.

Residents of Las Tunas, Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo and Granma

provinces say doctors and other health workers are actively inspecting

houses and heavily populated areas to curb the diseases.

Meanwhile, tight security is being imposed to prevent word from

spreading about the extent of the disease. One eyewitness said police

and security-service officers are guarding infectious disease wards at

clinics and hospitals to prevent news of the scale of infection leaking out.


Roberto de Jesus Guerra Perez is a reporter and founder of the Hablemos

Press news agency in Cuba. This article first appeared on the website of

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that

trains journalists in areas of conflict. Readers may write to the author

at the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London

WC1X 8LT, U.K.; Web site: For information about IWPR's

funding, please go to

This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers.

McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the

opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the

views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.

2012, The Institute for War & Peace Reporting"

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