A year after Hurricane Sandy left Santiago de Cuba in shambles, the streets are clear and power, communications and water are back to normal, but residents of Cuba’s second city are still struggling with the aftermath of the mighty storm.
Sandy, carrying 200kph winds, caught the city by surprise on the morning of Oct. 25 last year, damaging half of the houses and most of the public buildings, killing 11 residents and laying waste to nearby crops and fruit orchards.
“We were overconfident because a powerful hurricane had never penetrated Santiago. The mountains around the city would weaken them,” said Zucel Estrada, who waits on tables at a private restaurant.
“When Sandy finally came, it was like Armageddon. The storm did not do away with the world, but it almost did away with Santiago,” she said.
Few of the hurricanes to rip through Cuba have scored direct hits on Santiago de Cuba, 835km east of Havana and nestled at the foot of the Sierra Maestra mountains on the southern coast.
Santiago’s 430,000 residents have suffered through the tropical summer and rainy season without the customary shade provided by the thousands of trees felled by Sandy. That misery has been compounded because many still lack adequate roofs to protect them from torrential rains.