Thousands of Cubans returned on Saturday to homes they had fled ahead of Hurricane Sandy, which ripped through eastern Cuba last week, only to find extensive damage and destruction, local media reported.
The storm claimed 11 lives in eastern Cuba, including several people who died in the rubble of buildings that collapsed in the fury of the massive storm.
Sandy caused US$88 million in damages in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second-largest province, alone, according to the Cuban state information agency.
“This figure will increase when the final damages are calculated for tourism, sugar, construction and other sectors,” the agency added, citing Cuban Civil Defense sources.
In addition to Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and Guantanamo were the worst affected provinces. Four central provinces, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Santi Spiritu and Ciego de Avila, were also on alert due to persistent rain.
As Cubans made their way back home, authorities were making preparations to distribute food and other basic supplies to those in need.
More than 137,000 homes were affected in Santiago de Cuba, the Prensa de Latina news agency said.
Emergency crews from six different provinces had been sent to Santiago de Cuba to work on restoring power there, the agency added.
Crews had been sent to battered and flooded fields to try to quickly collect and sell crops, like bananas, damaged by the storm and at risk of rotting.
The 11 deaths traced to Sandy in Cuba makes the storm the second-deadliest to hit Cuba in the last 50 years, just behind 2005’s Dennis, which killed 16 people.