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Hurricane Rita soaks Havana - situation report

Official UN report on hurricane details flooding in Havana but no serious consequences
23 September 2005

Hurricane Rita - Cuba/Gulf of Mexico: OCHA Situation Report No. 1Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2005/0142

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/EGUA-6GGNK5?OpenDocument

OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Hurricane Rita - Cuba/Gulf of Mexico
22 September 2005

This report is based on information provided by the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Cuba and several media report.

1. The Hurricane RITA, classified already category IV event according to the Saffir-Simpson scale, has been affecting the territory of Cuba during the last days. RITA continues advancing in the Gulf of Mexico due west, leaving behind in Cuba torrential rains.

2. Torrential rains and thunderstorms, accompanied by strong wind squalls, some of them up to 100 km an hour, pounded many areas of Cuba for several days. Schools remained closed in Havana for two consecutive days, but they reopened today.

3. Pinar del Rio province, Cuba's westernmost, is still receiving rains - occasionally torrential- and strong winds from the South as RITA advances due west in the Gulf of Mexico.

4. Heavy rains associated with RITA are forecast to begin to affect the western and central Gulf of Mexico coastal areas tonight into Friday, 23 September 2005.

Main effects:

5. Electricity was cut at noon Monday 19 September 2005, in Havana as the storm approached the city in order to preserve the transformers. The lack of electricity forced a suspension of the piped gas service.

6. Although a part of the electricity service was restored after the strong winds diminished, some circuits sustained damages and are still occasionally out of order. The Power Company said all circuits would be working by Friday 23 September 2005. The city bus service is back to normal.

7. Low lying areas in Havana's Bay shore Boulevard in the central Vedado District were covered by sea penetrations that began shortly after noon Monday, 19 September and the water covered some 20 city blocks. All persons living in the area were evacuated. The water had receded by Tuesday, 20 September morning and all evacuees returned to their homes.

8. As RITA advances due west, sea penetrations may continue in low-lying areas of Cuba's Southwestern coast. In Southern Havana province, the sea penetrated one mile inland at Playa Guanímar. Its residents had been evacuated early Monday.

9. Experts note that despite the fact that RITA is speeding away through the Gulf of Mexico, it still poses dangers for Westernmost Cuba.

10. No loss of lives has been reported. It is estimated that the strong winds, heavy rains and sea penetration have caused damages in a considerable area in the northern and southern part of the island. The amount of rain registered (76,6 mm in Cabo San Antonio and 61,5 mm in Bahia Honda in the north of the island) and the high sustained winds (up to 100 km an hour) may have created erosion of beaches and inland flooding, causing among others, damages to the electric system, houses and agricultural sector.

Preventive Actions adopted by the Government of Cuba:

11. Monday 19 September at noon, Civil Defense decreed Hurricane Alarm for the coastal provinces of Matanzas, Havana and City of Havana, and placed Pinar del Rio province, Cuba's Westernmost on Hurricane Alert.

12. Cuba's Civil Defense evacuated some 230,000 persons from coastal, low-lying and other dangerous areas. Close to 18,883 of them were taken to Government shelters and the rest went to homes of family members or friends.

13. Many of the evacuees have already returned or are returning to their homes, in accordance with the decision of the local authorities and Civil Defense offices.

14. Although with continuing rainfall, the climate conditions improved and the provinces of Matanzas, Havana and City of Havana were placed in recovery status. The province of Pinar del Rio went into normalcy.

Preventive actions adopted by the United Nations System:

15. The UN Resident Coordinator Office introduced security preventive measures on Monday 19 September to ensure the security of the UN Staff and Offices. Emergency procedures were revised and distributed and the Warden system was updated in accordance to the internal security plan. The UN Resident Coordinator Office in Havana advised staff to return to their homes as a security measure at noon Tuesday 20 September. Work was back to normal on Wednesday 21 September morning.

16. The UN missions currently in Cuba remained safe and were able to resume their activities on Wednesday. Air traffic was canceled at Havana airport but operations were resumed as of Wednesday morning.

17. The Office of the Resident Coordinator continues to disseminate all informative notes received from Civil Defense to all partners and cooperation institutions, thus fulfilling its role as a point of reference and information.

Information:

18. For additional information, please contact the office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Cuba: bruno.moro@undp.org; ulrika.richardson-golinski@undp.org; margherita.vitale@undp.org; alberto.d.perez@undp.org

19. OCHA remains in close contact with the UN Resident Coordinator's Offices in Cuba and will continue reporting as further information is made available.

20. For tracking and further information, please refer to the Website of the National Hurricane Service in Miami at www.nhc.noaa.gov, and www.solar.ifa.hawaii.edu/Tropical/Gif/atl.latest.gif.

21. This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23
E-mail: ochagva@un.org

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officer:

Mr. Dusan Zupka
E-mail: zupka@un.org, direct Tel. +41-22-917 1645

Press contact:

(in GVA) Ms. Elizabeth Byrs, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53
(in N.Y.) Ms. Stephanie Bunker, direct Tel. +1-917-367 51 26




Rita soaks Cuba and heads for Gulf coasts

HAVANA, Cuba, Sep 21 - Category 5 Hurricane Rita didn't cause any dead, but torrential rainfalls as it passed Cuba heading into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday. Forecasters are expecting Rita to make landfall over coastal Texas by Friday, or Saturday, although the cone graphics by the US National Forecast Center is including the northeast of Mexico, Texas and part of Louisiana.

On its effects after passing near to the north of Cuba, Dr. Jose Rubiera, head of the Forecast Center of the National Meteorological Institute, informed to Granma daily that hurricane Rita caused significant rainfall accumulation as the 210 millimeters reported in Havana's municipality of Bauta on Tuesday.

During its path across the Straits of Florida near the island, Cuban meteorologists registered sustained hurricane winds of up to 60 - 70 km/h and gusts of up to 92 km/h, Rubiera added.

Preliminary numbers of the Cuban General Staff of the Civil Defense indicated that 230, 000 people were evacuated nationwide, of which 18, 883 remained in temporary shelters as the rest is in homes of relatives, friends or neighbors.

http://www.escambray.cu/Eng/Noticias/Rita1050921105.htm


230,000 evacuated as Hurricane Rita hits Cuba

Havana, 21 Sept:HURRICANE Rita smacked central and western Cuba today, including Havana and Varadero, with intense wind and rain, and prompting the evacuation of 230,000 people.

The category two cyclone made landfall 90km northeast of Havana, with 160km/h winds, after it struck the Florida Keys, which US authorities had ordered evacuated.

"The storm will keep up its strength and will reach category three in a few hours as it enters the Gulf of Mexico, and could even reach category four," said Jose Rubiera, head of the forecasting centre at the Meteorological Institute of Cuba.

"It will be another intense hurricane," he said.

"230,000 evacuees (are in Cuba) mostly in the coastal and mountain areas," said Domingo Carretero, of Civil Defence. "We must continue watching the advance of the hurricane."

About 600 shelters were readied for some 126,000 people in Havana, but outside the capital and in rural areas, thousands of others had already taken refuge.

Thousands of people in central and western provinces were also taken to shelters, as were animals and foodstuffs.

At least 42,000 people were given shelter in Matanzas, 31,000 in Villa Claro and 6,300 in Sancti Spiritus.

Twelve thousand tourists were also relocated to safer lodging in Varadero, the principal tourist spot.


http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,16674425%255E23109,00.html


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