As you know Irma was a very strong hurricane, category five. This last month was extremely hot and very humid. Even Cubans were finding it difficult to breath. At the beginning of September the national TV began to warn the population about the arrival of Irma, a huge hurricane of great magnitude. Here they have an excellent meteorological institute that is really up to date and that informs the people almost every hour about the development of the phenomenon. We were told, before its arrival, that most probably it will cross the whole country, so everyone had to be ready to face the event. We seldom have hurricanes in the province of La Havana, but this time it was different.
Irma arrived in Cuba, in the south, on the 4th of September and went through the Provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguin the following days. Here, in our house, we have now a prenovice from La Havana and two aspirants, one from Santiago de Cuba and the other from Holguin. When these last two phoned home they were told that their regions were not greatly affected. In the province of Holguin we have as well a community in Puerto Padre and several chapels and mission houses in the adjacent countryside. Fr. Miguel Angel was alone in Puerto Padre when the hurricane went over them. Our Delegate, Fr. Aldo, who kept phone contact with him, was told that our house in Puerto Padre was not affected, but the strong wind eradicated trees and blew up aluminium roofs. We have no precise information about our chapels and mission houses in the countryside but surely they should have been affected.
The most affected provinces were those of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila. In Chambas, in the province of Ciego de Ávila, we have a community, chapels and mission houses and some of them, especially the zone of Florida and particularly the littoral part of Punta Alegre were greatly affected. Fr. José Alberto, the parish priest of Chambas and councillor of the Delegation, informed our Delegate that he, F. Paco and the new elected bishop who will be consecrated on the 30th of September were on the spot with Caritas to evaluate the situation. Due to this situation and in order that our brothers could organize the church aid it was decided to suspend the first annual retreat of the Delegation which was to be held here in La Havana, from the 23rd to the 28th of September.
As far as we are concerned, here in La Havana, we took all the necessary precautions to avoid damage and destruction. We were informed by the TV that Irma will hit La Havana and Pinar del Rio only through its tale and then it will divert itself to Miami. And so it was. We began to feel the first effects on Friday in the late afternoon: strong wind, clouds and some tiny rain. On Saturday we woke up with a sunny sky, and the wind was not that very strong. But in the afternoon we had strong wind, clouds and rain. Around 8.00pm part of the electricity was already gone. The worst was during the night between Saturday and Sunday, hitting strongly the central part of La Havana. Irma entered our city through the Malecón (the Strand) with waves rising up to ten meters causing floods in the littoral parts of the city , wind blowing about 260 mph eradicating trees, electricity poles and the newly installed lamps. Wind continued to blow on Sunday´s morning accompanied with some rain. In order to avoid unnecessary inconveniencies for our parishioners, Fr. Aldo, our parish priest, decided to suspend the 11.00am parish mass. Around 3.00pm all was over. Now we are coming back to normal and once again Cubans are in the streets chatting, singing and none of them lamenting about Irma destructive effects. Streets are being cleaned, electricity, at least in our zone, has been totally restored, schools have resumed their course and shops have once again opened their doors. We are now waiting for José, but people do not seem to be preoccupied, since it is only category two. We will wait and see … but surely there is no way to give up our enthusiasm to serve humbly the Church, the Order and the Cuban people.
Fr. Lucian Borg OSA.