Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hurricane-proofing a Caribbean island

Patricia Grogg in IPS, via Tierramérica: The residents of Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth), the second largest of the Cuban archipelago, know a lot about hurricanes, but it wasn't enough to avoid the destructive power of Hurricane Gustav two years ago. It was a huge disaster, and many still shudder at the memory. Concern is growing in this unique municipality, situated 100 kilometres off the southwestern coast of Cuba, because the forecast is for a very active and intense hurricane season, which runs Jun. 1 to Nov. 30.

…What is now a housing complex used to be a rural pre-university institute. It was shut down after a decision to move those classes to urban areas. The large classrooms were transformed into apartments, and the lower level converted to spaces for a nursery, small primary school, cafeteria and other services.

…Emergency preparation measures prevented deaths, but more than 40 people were injured and needed emergency treatment at the Héroes del Baíre Hospital, the only fully-equipped medical centre for serving the nearly 87,000 residents on the island.

…The hospital is now part of a project to be the country's first "safe hospital" in cases of natural disasters, with support from the Latin American Centre for Disaster Medicine (CLAMED), the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). The initiative, already under way, will create an institution that can continue to function as long as possible in a hurricane, which means ensuring the availability of water supplies, electricity and waste treatment.

As for human resources, staff will be trained to deal with extreme emergencies. "When a phenomenon of this type occurs, everything revolves around that emergency, the doctors' duties adapt to the need," hospital director Yosvany Tamayo Garrido explained to Tierramérica....

Hurricane Ike approaching Cuba in 2008, via NASA

No comments: