Monday, November 10, 2008

Cubans Embrace for Paloma's Aftermath

Thousands of Cubans returned to homes demolished by Hurricane Paloma even as the once-powerful storm dissipated off the coast Monday. The hurricane washed out fishing villages, ripped the roofs off factories, and ravaged roads. However, no one was reported dead. Coastal Santa Cruz del Sur took a direct hit when Paloma struck as a Category 4 hurricane Saturday night. Ten-foot-high waves carried away wooden houses, leaving a tangled mess of smashed furniture and strewn belongings bobbing in the surf. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, said that the remains of Paloma were hanging off the north coast of central Cuba on Monday and that the storm was not expected to regain force thankfully. Reports state that in Camaguey province, nearly 200,000 people had been evacuated to shelters or waited out the storm with neighbors or relatives. All but 59,000 had headed home by Monday morning. For some, however, there wasn't much to which to return. Cuba already is struggling to recover from major Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. They caused about $9.4 billion in damage, smashing nearly half a million homes and destroying almost a third of the island's crops. Outside Santa Cruz del Sur, some homes were submerged up to their flimsy metal roofs. Banana crops and other farmland was washed out, though there were no official estimates on the loss to the island's dwindling food stocks.Cuba balked at U.S. offers of aid after Gustav and Ike, and Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura said the country would take the same position if Washington pledged more help after Paloma. "Our problem is the blockade," said Machado Ventura, referring to the U.S. trade embargo, which has been in place since 1962.

No comments: