September 15, 2004 2:12 a.m. EDT
Hurrican Ivan Batters Western Cuba, Damage Moderate
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
September 15, 2004 2:12 a.m.
CORTES, Cuba (AP)--Elma Garcia laughed in resignation as
she held the cold water tap from her sink -the only thing
left from her bathroom in one of few populated areas near
the westernmost tip of Cuba that Hurricane Ivan grazed on
its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
"We thought that when it was all over there would be
nothing left," Garcia, a 57-year-old retired elementary
school teacher, said. "But, well, at least we found
Authorities who organized a helicopter tour of Cortes on
Tuesday said it was among the communities most heavily
damaged when Ivan passed through with its punishing winds,
heavy rains and pounding surf on Monday night before moving
up toward New Orleans. Along the island's southwestern
coast, towns such as Cortes were flooded, roofs were ripped
off, and homes destroyed.
Although the planting season had not yet begun, dozens of
tobacco curing houses in the western province of Pinar del
Rio had walls or roofs torn away.
Garcia and her husband were among those evacuated in
Cortes, and like many Cubans, opted to stay with neighbors
on higher ground. Returning home Tuesday, they found all
the bathroom fixtures gone -toilet, bathtub, sink and
mirror, all evidently swept away by the sea.
Also gone was the refrigerator. Windows were shattered,
parts of the one-story, concrete block home's wall and roof
were torn away.
"Imagine how difficult it will be for a pair of old people
like us to start all over again," said Garcia.
Nevertheless, she said she knew the government would help
her rebuild, just as it had after past hurricanes.
The helicopter flight over the region showed damage to
Maria la Gorda, a popular scuba diving resort near Cuba's
western tip. The roofs of some buildings were torn off and
downed palm trees scattered the grounds.
Elsewhere, some agricultural crops were flooded.
A small bridge and roads were under water.
But no deaths or injuries were reported on the
communist-run island and although authorities have not yet
provided figures, it was clear damage here was not close to
the destruction Ivan caused earlier in the Cayman Islands,
Jamaica, Grenada. At least 68 people have died: 15 in
Jamaica, 39 in Grenada, five in Venezuela, one in Tobago,
one in Barbados, four in the Dominican Republic and three
"It's still premature to know the damage and loss," Civil
Defense Lt. Angel Macareno said Tuesday night on a
state-run television program focusing on the hurricane's
Macareno credited Cuba's evacuation program for ensuring no
one died. He said nearly 1.9 million of the nation's 11.2
million people -rather than the 1.3 million earlier
reported -were evacuated before Ivan struck.
Evacuations here are widespread and mandatory. Civil
defense plans are highly developed, with preparedness
education programs for the entire population.
"The Cuban way could easily be applied to other countries
with similar economic conditions, and even in countries
with greater resources that do not manage to protect their
population as well as Cuba does," Salvano Briceno, director
of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction,
said in Geneva.
In 1998, only four people died during Hurricane Georges,
while 600 died elsewhere. This year, Hurricane Charley
killed four people in Cuba, but 27 in Florida.
Also hitting the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Jeanne
strengthened to near hurricane as it near Puerto Rico,
which it is scheduled to reached on Wednesday afternoon.
Islanders on Tuesday frantically bolted the doors of their
homes, prepared to evacuate from lowlying areas and rushed
to supermarkets to buy supplies.
The storm has prompted a hurricane warning in the U.S.
Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico where lines formed at
supermarkets and islanders raced to put up hurricane
"It's going to be a close call for Puerto Rico," said Chris
Hennon, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Hurricane
Center in Miami. "Jeanne will probably become a hurricane
At 11 p.m., Jeanne's center was 40 miles southeast of St.
Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maximum sustained winds
were at 60 mph, just 14 mph short of becoming a Category 1
hurricane, the weakest on a scale of five.