From: Cuba Hurricane Fund Committee, Canadian Network on Cuba
As you already know, Cuba has once more suffered the fierce attack of a hurricane. This one, Gustav, is considered to be the most devastating in the last forty years. Having caused severe flooding in its early stages in eastern Cuba, it grew in strength and size in the warm Caribbean waters and, after demolishing the special municipality of the Isle of Youth with its awful force, invaded Pinar del Río, Cuba's most westerly province. By this time it had achieved a diameter of some 450 kilometers with the most destructive winds and rains packed into the eastern side of the monster. Although Pinar del Río bore the brunt of the damage, ravaged by sustained winds of 240 kph, with gusts as high as 350 kph, the area of damage extended to include the provinces of Havana, City of Havana and Matanzas.
The damage touched all sectors of the economic and social life of the region. In large parts of Pinar del Río and Isla de la Juventud, houses, schools, hospitals and other public buildings that weren't demolished, lost their roofs or suffered other kinds of damage. This means that warehouses that stored supplies and commodities such as rice, sugar, flour, tobacco, could not avoid exposing them to the elements. Cultural and recreational facilities were damaged or destroyed. Ferris wheels were turned into mangled metal, as were transmission towers used for electricity or communications. Damaged high-tension power lines, roads and bridges added to the toll. The agricultural sector has suffered severely. Hundreds of hectares of bananas fell early, as did citrus fruit. Sugar cane was massively affected, and sophisticated irrigation equipment was ruined. The part of the fishing industry based in the Isla de la Juventud was gravely hurt.
The good news is that -- thanks to the precautionary measures, in which Cuba leads the world and which involved moving a quarter of a million people to safe shelter -- not a single life was lost. Five lobster fishermen who were missing at sea for a time were found after an intensive air and sea search.
At this time of writing, two days after the disaster, the total cost of the damage has not yet been assessed, but it will surely be billions of dollars.
Even though Cuba has not requested aid from us, the friends of Cuba, led by the constituent members of the Canadian Network on Cuba, will want, as they usually do, to do everything possible to help. In view of the great expense, we should imaginatively seek out new additional sources of funds-from different levels of government, farmer's associations, trade unions, cultural groups-and in general widen the circle of the friends of Cuba.
We should work to include people who are indignant at injustice, those who understand, for example, that one of the main reasons why the Bush administration let some of its citizens die rather than accept Cuban medical help at the time of Katrina was because they wanted no easing of their brutal embargo, even when Cuba was faced with terrible natural disasters.
Let us approach Canadians with some of the information included in this piece and, as José Martí would do, believing in their goodness.
The need for funds to recover from hurricane Gustav is urgent. We aim to forward to Cuba an initial contribution of $100,000 as soon as possible. We hope that in this hour of Cuba's need, you will find it possible to respond in a spirit that reflects the generosity and determination of the Cuban people.
One hundred per cent of your donation will go to Cuba either directly or in shipping requested materials to help in the reconstruction.
There are two ways to send in donations. Either way, you will receive a charitable tax receipt:
1) Send your cheque made payable to the "Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund", clearly stating "For Cuba Hurricane Relief" on the memo line, together with your name, address and telephone number. Envelopes should be addressed to: Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund, Att: S. Skup,Treasurer, 56 Riverwood Terrace, Bolton, Ontario, L7E 1S4
2) Make out your cheque to your local Cuba solidarity committee with your name, address and phone number, clearly stating "For Cuba Hurricane Relief". The local committee will send one cheque together with a list of the names, addresses, phone numbers and the amount of the donation of the individual donors to the Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund (Registered
charitable organization # 88876 9197). Tax receipts will then be issued to individual donors.
Yours in solidarity,
Keith Ellis, Chair
Cuba Hurricane Fund Committee
Canadian Network on Cuba