Venezuela’s Maduro Arrives to Cuba With Hurricane Aid

Hurricane Irma caused severe damage to Cuba’s agriculture, highway and electro-energetic systems.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has arrived to Cuba to show solidarity with the Caribbean island after Hurricane Irma damaged large sectors of the country.

RELATED: Hundreds of Cuban Cultural Centers Damaged by Hurricane Irma

Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores, who will be delivering aid packages to victims in person, were received by Cuban President Raul Castro and Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, as well as other ministers of state, at the Jose Marti International Airport.

"We came to Cuba to visit our sister country of Latin America and the Caribbean to help after Hurricane Irma" Maduro said after arriving to Havana.

"We are here offering our hand of solidarity to these people, who have suffered the devastating Hurricane Irma and now, with the effort of all Cubans, rises with dignity."

Hurricane Irma’s 290 kilometers-per-hour winds caused severe damage to Cuba’s agriculture, highway and electro-energetic systems, leaving vast areas without power for days.

Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama, Russia, Suriname and Vietnam are among other nations that sent resources to help those affected by the Category 5 hurricane. It left 10 dead and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and housing in the Caribbean region as a whole.

Cuba itself has dispatched 771 physicians to several Caribbean islands that were also affected by the storm's destruction.

Described by meteorologists as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the Caribbean in a century, Hurricane Irma has caused at least 28 casualties and left a path of widespread destruction on several northeastern Caribbean Islands, especially Barbuda.

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Irma: Vignettes from an event!

In Cuba, there is no other issue today than Irma, the strong hurricane that swept houses, roofs and crops from throughout the country. Irma has left a trail of bad memories and indelible experiences.

Once again, Cubans’ idiosyncrasy stayed afloat. The help and collaboration among neighbors, the funny comments about one of the most fearful atmospheric events that have ever hit the country, and the willingness and perseverance to overcome difficulties among all have been present. Now, I leave you with some anecdotes –as vignettes– about my neighbors from a neighborhood in Havana’s outskirts. Solidarity, obsession, carelessness summarize some of the behaviors.

Yusmaikel and his "plasma TV set"

"It only took me a tile, I have a hole in the roof, but I'm worried about the “plasma” (flat screen TV) that I bought recently. Ask Irma (coincidentally my neighbor is named like that). She saw it, tell her to tell you the size it has, it's like that window. I'm afraid it gets wet and breaks down".

And the roof?, I ask him.

“That is not my matter for the moment. I will see when it rains. The plasma TV set is the most important thing. I use it as an atari, I love it, and that entertains me. Irma has already passed, I am not concerned”.

Mercedes’s cookings…

“As I have my sister and my brother-in-love at home, I bought several things to spend these days. I had chicken, some pork beefsteaks and mincemeat in the refrigerator. And in addition, since the mango harvest was good, I also kept some.

“So the lack of electric power made me very tense, and I resorted to cook. I boiled the meats, made croquettes and cooked the fruits, because there was guava too. I have spent the whole cyclone in the kitchen! I hope no one else comes, but if it happens I am not going to keep so many things in the freezer. If lacking is bad, under these circumstances, lightening the refrigerator is better. It’s an experience to face the forthcoming ones”.

Carlos, the truck and taters

Carlos drives a truck that services agriculture. He’s a strong black man, as tall as a palm tree, and perhaps that’s the reason why, backbone pains always beset him. Therefore, when he brings home some taters, he never forgets to share them with those around him.

“Bring me a sack, a bag”, he tells me from time to time, and fills it with sweet potatoes, cassava, or some other seasonal produce.

Irma had gone, but the whole neighborhood had no power and water. The children were playing, adults were awaiting the restoration of power but that moment never came. However, Carlos brought good news. Some neighbors surrounded the track and he offered something to everybody; as if easing their pains. And he accomplished it! A while later, in the middle of the darkness of the night, the savory Creole flavor revealed that locals were cooking more than one “caldosa” (traditional Cuban stew).

Raimundo: Electricist or mason?

He works in an enterprise that offers maintenance to power stations, fixing heavy equipment, such as transformers. But in his spare time, he earns extra money doing masonry works. Few people know he is an electrician, everybody thinks he only has to do with sand and cement.

"Irma" had not arrived yet. It was around 2:00 pm, and Margarita thought there was no power. It happened that there was a short circuit in her house. Someone let Raimundo know it, and he showed up at the old woman’s home quickly. He climbed a stool on a chair and found out that some cables were really burnt. He was about to fall down, the prop was quite high.

He removed the lamp, separated the cables, and when he decided to test, then there was no power already. “Count on me for anything you need —he told the woman—, but do not tell the neighborhood that I am an electrician, because actually I fix big appliances, not small things like this one!

The kitchen door and Gloria

For months, Gloria has been suffering from the kitchen door of her apartment, located in a fifth floor. It didn’t even come to her mind that the cyclone season was about to begin. The door swelled when there was moisture, and in addition it had termite”. In short, it was an issue to be solved.

She talked to the thousand virgins, as the saying goes, until she finally managed to get one, but very far from her house. The dilemma was how to transport it from Guanabacoa to Arroyo Naranjo, two municipalities of the capital.

That night, during the passing of the hurricane, Gloria and her son spent most of the morning hours holding the door with wood. "What went in through it was a gust of wind". Fear seized them. Changing it was imminent.

After the fearsome cyclone, the boy walked around the neighborhood in search of a vehicle. But as one could figure out, his effort was unsuccessful. He found a truck stopped in front of his building. “Buddy —he said— I give you 5 CUC (convertible currency) if you take me to bring….” The man smiled and told him: “I do not have oil nor where to get it from. Cupets (Cuba’s National Oil Company) that have fuels do not have power and vice versa”.

Hours later, a phone call made them happy. “Get dressed because I am going there, I think that I can carry the door in my car”. So it was, human solidarity solved a problem that seemed to find no happy ending.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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National Electrical Union Working Hard to Restore Power

The National Electrical Union (UNE) is working hard to restore power across the country, following the damages left by Hurricane Irma.

Lázaro Guerra, UNE technical director, noted that almost the entire island was impacted.  He added that service has already been restored in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, Granma, Holguín, Las Tunas and Camagüey, thanks to thermoelectric plants in Renté, a unit in Nuevitas and another in Felton.

The engineer explained that these are areas or “islands,” according to the electrical terminology, which are strengthened by power generation through thermoelectric plants.  However, he clarified that the service is not yet stable, and efforts are ongoing, including constant analysis and evaluation to ensure there are no setbacks, as any mistake could imply a further 36 hours of work.

Guerra noted that the power supply in the west is the most affected, with only a few plants functioning in the capital.  Meanwhile, the central region is awaiting the incorporation to the grid of the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes generating unit in Cienfuegos.

Guerra explained that the damages are not due to impacts on the technology, but to the integrity of the national electrical system.

With some thermo plants having been cut off from the grid, which generate 74% of the country’s power, full coverage of demand currently remains impossible.  Without the incorporation of these plants to the grid, there can be no stability in the service.  For this reason, efforts are focused on the creation of islands, which will then be interconnected to the national grid and make the service sustainable.

According to the Director General of the Havana Electricity Company, Jesús Samón, interviewed on national television, just 24 hours after Hurricane Irma passed, workers have succeeded in partially restoring power to the capital. “In areas such as the San Agustín substation, La Lisa, the service was restored in the early hours, also in parts of Old Havana, the Avenida del Puerto, a part of Boyeros, and in Plaza.”

He added that of the 302 primary distribution circuits, 128 are ready to restore the power supply, as soon as it can be generated.

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Irma: A name never been so mentioned before

My neighbor Irma never figured out that her name would be - at some point in her life - so mentioned, but in a "terrifying" way. Irma has become an informational event in recent days, as it always happens when it is about an atmospheric phenomenon of such magnitude.

Comments have gone through several stages in social networks, some - very peculiar to Cubans - original and funny, like the one recently written on Facebook by colleague Elias Argudin and that encouraged several people to share it: "What is the name of the hurricane that threatens us Irma or Trump? "

However, as the hours have passed (of course) the complexity of the issue has been reflected in the texts. Calls for caring human lives and preservation of material goods fill the networks.

From the eastern province of Las Tunas, local Jorge Perez calls "for a miracle", whereas Eric Yanes, cameraman from Ciego de Avila’s TV station –not without concern– points out that the reservoirs of this territory, very affected by the drought, are ready to receive the rainfalls from Irma; "Let it leave us water and let it go right to the north."

At midst the uncertainty that a cyclone always causes, and furthermore when it is known how powerful and strong it is, Cubans wondered where renowned meteorologist José Rubiera was. His sapience and wisdom manifest themselves every year by this time and many calmed down after he finally appeared on the 8 o’clock TV news to offer us his report about Hurricane Irma. Although his excellent students, as Rubiera himself called them, did not do a bad job in his absence.

Journalist Jorge Legañoa, from the Cuban News Agency, had already calmed some via Facebook stating that "the knight of hurricanes" was not in Cuba at this moment (he wrote on the eve), but he would arrive on Thursday.

Hours have passed and Irma has already ravaged some Caribbean islands.

Yurien Portelles reports that according to the prime minister of Barbuda, “the island is unsuitable for life”. Meanwhile, Cubans continue to follow step by step the mischiefs of Irma, a name that had never been so mentioned before.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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Cubana Airlines Announces Cancelation of its Flights

Cubana Airlines announced on Thursday the cancellation of its flights starting on Friday in the following informative note.

Cubana Airlines’ national and international flights will be suspended On Friday September 8th, except those to Gerona, Mexico and Cancun taking into account the meteorological effects associated with Hurricane Irma in the center and eastern part of the country.

Information will be announced after the progressive reestablishment of the flights in correspondence with the normalization of the weather conditions in each destination.

Passengers whose flights have been cancelled could change their travel date to a later flight without penalties, once the necessary conditions are reestablished and are subject to availability offered by the airlines or full reimbursement in the Sales Offices for a period of 15 working days.

Cubana Airlines apologizes for any discomfort this might cause. (ACN)



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Hurricane alert announced for Cuba's eastern and central provinces

According to the Forecast Center at Cuba's Meteorology Institute, Irma continues as a category 5 hurricane, following a west-northwest path at a pace of 26 kilometers per hour. It is expected that within the next 48 to 72 hours the island's eastern provinces will be affected.

Assuming that within the next 12 to 24 hours Hurricane Irma will maintain its current path and rate of movement, the decision was made to establish an Alert in the provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Holguín, Las Tunas, Camagüey, Ciego de Avila, and Villa Clara, as of 10:00am this morning, September 6. The Informative Phase is maintained in Sancti Spíritus, Cienfuegos, and Matanzas; while the provinces of La Habana and Mayabeque must remain attentive to information released by the Meteorology Institute.

State bodies and organs, economic entities, and social institutions of the provinces now in the Alert phase, must implement measures established in their respective disaster mitigation plans, increase hydro-meteorological monitoring, and evaluate models of possible impacts.

The population is urged to stay informed of the evolution of this hurricane via Hurricane Advisories released by the Meteorology Institute, and Civil Defense instructions, adopting, in a disciplined fashion, all measures as indicated by local authorities.

National Civil Defense Chiefs of Staff

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Hurricane Irma path: Forecast map warns Florida, New York and Washington - cities at RISK

forecasters warn the Category 5 hurricane, which is the largest ever formed in the Atlantic, could reach the US mainland by Friday before continuing up the country’s eastern seaboard. 

The hurricane has already hit Barbuda and St Barts and St Martin, causing “major damage” and leaving a trail of destruction, according to early reports from officials. Irma is now heading straight for the Virgin Islands and Richard Branson's own Necker Island.

Low-lying areas on the French territorial islands have been flooded and widespread damage is expected, according to France’s interior minister Gerard Collomb. 

Sea level rises have been recorded of more than 2 metres.

Mr Collomb said: “We know that the four most solid buildings on the island have been destroyed which means that more rustic structures have probably been completely or partially destroyed.”

And forecasts predict Hurricane Irma, which is the size of France, will continue to crash through the Caribbean before tearing through the US, as portrayed by this new map. 

Hurricane Irma pathEXPRESS

Hurricane Irma could hit US cities stretching from Florida to New York

The Virgin Islands are next to be hit but billionaire Richard Branson has refused to leave the islands and is among those preparing for the worst with landfall expected today. 

While those that can are evacuating the area, billionaire Branson is refusing to leave his private Necker Island. 

The Virgin mogul said he is going to ride out the Category 5 hurricane on his luxury island, using a “concrete wine cellar” as a hideaway. 

Tomorrow the US territory of Puerto Rico, as well as Haiti and Puerto Rico, two states which share the divided island of Hispaniola, could be hit. 

On Saturday the Turks and Caicos Islands are predicted to be in the firing line, along with tourist hotspots Cuba and the Bahamas. 

And it is predicted Hurricane Irma will first hit the American mainland, with Miami in the firing line, along with the Florida Keys island string on Sunday, through to Monday morning.

Hurricane Irma: Damage in the Caribbean Irma flooding in St Martin Irma hits Saint Martin -latest damage Irma flooding in Saint Martin -latest damage

Florida governor Rick Scott has already declared a state of emergency amid widespread evacuations across the state, with residents rushing to supermarkets for vital supplies. 

Early next week the forecast becomes more patchy with meteorologists split over whether Hurricane Irma will continue northwards through America. 

But if Irma does continue on this route, as many as 10 US states could suffer from the hurricane's severe wind, rain and flooding. 

On Monday, other Florida cities including Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Tallahassee could be hit by Hurricane Irma, which has sustained winds of 185 mpg and gusts of 225mph.

Some forecasts predict Georgia will be hit by midweek, with the historic city of Savannah in danger from life-threatening winds and ferocious rain. 

Late next week the hurricane is expected to push even further north through South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. 

And the weekend of Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September could see Hurricane Irma hit major US cities in the north-east of the country. 

Washington DC, Baltimore and New York cities, with their total population of tens of millions of people, could be the hurricane’s final targets before it finally dies out.

Some experts warn Irma's characteristics mirror those of 1960’s Hurricane Donna which left a death toll of almost 400 and destroyed tens of thousands of homes as it swept along the Atlantic coast from the southern tip of Florida to New England in the north.

And as Hurricane Irma threatens to bring devastation to huge swathes of the US East Coast, it's feared Irma could be even worse than Donna. 

Deadly Donna was only a Category 4 storm with maximum wind speeds of around 160mph whereas Irma has already a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane packing sustained winds of 185mph and more.

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Katia joins Hurricane Irma and Tropical Storm Jose in the Atlantic

As major Hurricane Irma moves closer to the United States, newly-formed Tropical Storm Jose will churn across the central Atlantic while Tropical Storm Katia strengthens in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico this week.

Tropical Storm Jose, which formed on Tuesday morning, is located thousands of miles southeast of the Lesser Antilles.

Tropical Depression 13 formed Tuesday afternoon in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and strengthened into Tropical Storm Katia on Wednesday morning. It will continue to bring enhanced rainfall to eastern Mexico over the next few days.

Will Jose strike the Leeward Islands days after Irma?

Tropical Storm Jose will remain in an environment favorable for intensification with dry air and very little wind shear, or change in wind speed or direction with altitude.

There is the potential for Jose to become a hurricane as it tracks to the west-northwest this week.

This projected path would take it near or just north of the Leeward Islands late this week and into the weekend, less than a week after major Hurricane Irma batters the area.

“The northern Leeward Islands are at risk of contending with enhanced showers and tropical-storm-force conditions this weekend, which could hinder Irma recovery efforts,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said.

“At the very least, rough surf will be stirred once again,” he added.

Beyond the Leeward Islands, Jose will likely get caught up in a lack of steering flow, causing it to meander in the open Atlantic early next week and posing mainly a concern to shipping interests.


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Tropical Storm Katia to trigger enhanced rainfall, local flooding in eastern Mexico

Tropical Storm Katia could strengthen further as it stews in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.

The system may wobble to the north, east and south this week, but it will move very little overall.

A large area of dry, sinking air over Texas and Louisiana will keep Katia from creeping northward into Harvey disaster areas

“The system will likely end up moving inland over the northern coast of southeastern Mexico sometime late this week or this weekend,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

Disruptive winds are forecast to stay north of the system, allowing it to strengthen slowly and feed off of the very warm water over the Bay of Campeche.

Regardless of further strengthening of the system, eastern Mexico will face enhanced rainfall and the threat for localized flooding, according to Miller. Mudslides can occur in the mountainous terrain.

Southern portions of the state of Tamaulipas and eastern portions of Veracruz will lie within the zone of increased downpours.

Rough surf will also batter the coast and lead to increased rip currents.


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