Compared to other storms, Hurricane Matthew did not leave in Cuba a great accumulation of rainfall as compensation for the strong destruction caused by its winds in the country’s easternmost region. Days after the meteorological event left through Cuba’s northern coast, not many provinces reported some benefit in their reservoirs.
The country’s reservoirs were storing barely half of their capacity, with strong tensions in Santiago de Cuba and several provinces in the centre of the country. The drought continues being the climate’s greatest threat.
On October 4 the hurricane crossed over the easternmost municipalities of the province of Guantánamo: Baracoa, Maisí, Imías and San Antonio del Sur. The biggest damages were concentrated in that region: in the majority of the homes, schools and other buildings, in agriculture, the power lines, telephony and the roads. Some towns were left without land communication for more than 24 hours due to the flooded rivers that brought down bridges. But the precipitations were not intense in the rest of the country.
While the local recovery tasks began, the first reports from the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH) indicated poor benefits in the country’s system of reservoirs. In the eastern province of Holguín, one of the most benefited in this sense, the stored water increased by 22 million cubic metres to reach 744 million, 80 per cent of its total capacity.
But the province of Santiago de Cuba, affected by a severe drought for several years, did not receive the relief that the inhabitants expected from the cloud bands that accompanied Matthew. The level of the reservoirs in the territory grew barely two per cent. It only rained over three of its 11 reservoirs.
The most critical situation continues in Santiago de Cuba’s source of water supply, the Parada system, which is at 8.7 per cent of its storage capacity, and in Palma Soriano, whose source of water slightly benefited, but is at 21.8 per cent, the provincial authorities reported three days after the hurricane’s passage.
The rest of Cuba’s eastern provinces also reported very discreet increases in the rainfall accumulated during the passage of Matthew. In Las Tunas and Camagüey the reservoirs were at 40 per cent of their capacity, and in Granma close to half.
Neither did the centre of the country perceive substantial benefits. Though there occurred precipitations associated to the meteorological event, in Villa Clara the stored water practically remained at the same levels from before the hurricane’s passage: 49.8 per cent of their storage capacity.
The INRH authorities in another province, Ciego de Avila, reported rains below the historic mean for the current month and reiterated their concern because the reservoirs were at very low levels. Ciego de Avila’s aquifer, one the largest in Cuba, barely stores 37 per cent of its capacity due to the poor contribution of the precipitations for more than two years.
The 242 reservoirs managed by the INRH in the country were at 53.9 per cent of their total capacity two days after the passage of Hurricane Matthew, the institute reported on TV. After warning that October is the last month of the usually rainy season in Cuba, the representatives of the INRH asked for extreme saving measures in water consumption, in agriculture as well as in industry and in the homes. (2016)
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