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Breaking News:

Bahamian students safe after Irma slams Cuba

  • People walk through flooded streets in Havana after the passage of Hurricane Irma in Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. There were no immediate reports of deaths in Cuba, a country that prides itself on its disaster preparedness, but authorities were trying to restore power and clear roads. AP

SLOAN SMITH
Guardian Staff Reporter
sloan@nasguard.com

Published: Sep 11, 2017

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As Hurricane Irma battered the north coast of Cuba, Bahamian dental student Contenta Anita Pluck tried to remain calm.

“The winds were very, very strong,” Pluck said.

“Next door you could hear the windows knocking hard and you could hear the rain beating on the roof.”

She said she could see rooftops from old buildings flying around, as well as serious flooding right down the street from where she was staying.

“Over here everyone is calm, and so it’s not like back home where everyone tries to stock up on food and stuff like that...Everyone was calm, so that was a bit different for me.”

She added, “I was shocked, it was very shocking and I was just [thinking] I hope [no major damage happens] where I am right now.

“We don’t have any electricity and water at the moment and last night we experienced a lot of wind and rain. Other places are flooded at the moment, so no one can leave their homes or shelters.”

She said classes are canceled today and tomorrow.

After leaving a trail of destruction as it moved across the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma ripped roofs off houses, collapsed buildings and flooded hundreds of miles of coastline as it moved through northern Cuba.

The provinces of Matanzas, Villa Clara, Camaguey and Sancti Spiritu received the brunt of the storm.

Havana, the capital of Cuba, also received heavy rain and flooding.

The largest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic hit Cuba as a Category 5 storm.

There have been no reports of deaths in Cuba, but the death toll from Irma was 24 up to yesterday

According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield, there are approximately 39 Bahamians studying in Cuba who are registered with the Bahamian embassy.

Henfield said some new students who recently arrived in Cuba are not yet registered.

“Before the event, we had reached out to them, those who didn’t reach out to us,” Henfield said last night.

“All that we have registered, we reached out to and they were all fine. We have confidence in the Cuban government the way they manage these events.

“...We didn’t expect the hurricane to take the turn that it did, more westerly, which really impacted Cuba, but from all accounts everybody is fine.”

Ismara Vargas-Walter, Cuban ambassador to The Bahamas, also assured that “there is no reason to worry”.

“We have official reports that no lives were lost, that everybody is safe as usual and people were taken care of,” she said.

Several other Bahamians, studying in the south of Cuba, expressed relief yesterday after seeing the devastation Irma caused in northern Cuba.

Antoinette Beneby, 22, a medical student in Santiago de Cuba, said, “We actually didn’t get a direct hit, so we are thankful for that.

“I was a bit concerned because the school isn’t really too sturdy, but it held up good.”

Beneby said as Irma passed she could hear the strong winds beating against the building.

“We got a bit of flooding, but that was about it,” she said, noting there was no major damage that she could see.

“Some trees are down, but that’s about it.”

Beneby said her biggest concern was her family back home in The Bahamas.

“I was more concerned about them than me,” she said.

“My mom and my dad are old and it’s only them there living in the house, so I was a bit concerned with them being there [alone].

“And it was really hard for me to contact them.

“I’ve been speaking to them through my brothers and sisters, but I haven’t really been in contact with them like that since the storm has passed.”

Beneby said she feels that experiencing the hurricane in Cuba was different than experiencing it at home.

“We weren’t exactly sure if the storm did hit us hard, where we were going to evacuate to or what were the measures that the school would take to ensure our safety,” she said.

“I think that’s the big difference between there and home, because home we have a plan as to where to go in case of an emergency.”

Beneby said she was relieved the storm spared her in Cuba, and her family in The Bahamas.

Michaella Hanna, 20, a radiology student in Santiago de Cuba, said yesterday they were not “experiencing anything like the other countries” that Irma hit before hitting Cuba.

“We are just getting a lot of wind and scattered showers basically,” Hanna said.

“The [electricity] goes off a lot but it’s really not bad where I am at.

“I’m not sure about the other parts of Cuba.

“The students in different provinces are going through different stuff, but here in Santiago, nothing is really going on.

“We are just getting the wind overcast and scattered showers and the [electricity] goes off and that’s about it. It’s safe here.”

Hanna said though the Cuban students living on campus were sent home during the storm, she and other international students stayed to ride it out, noting that they had no place else to go.

“The heads of the school, they had the windows taped down and boarded down, so we [are] just here sticking it out,” she said.

"...Nothing life-threatening here going on so we haven’t had to take emergency precautions.

“It’s just like a thunder storm passing. We are not feeling the hurricane aspects of it.”

Hanna said she was relieved that the hurricane did not gravely impact the part of Cuba where she is, noting that two other Bahamian students, Antoinette Armbrister and Gavin Major II, also rode out the storm on the campus.

Major, 22, also a radiology student, said he too felt safe during the passing of the storm, insisting “there is no reason to feel fearful here”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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