Cuban fisherman Heneydis Suarez probably saved his and his family’s lives by seeking shelter in a neighbor’s house as Hurricane Matthew pummeled the island Tuesday.
But that does not make it any easier to contemplate the empty plot that used to be his own home, a small house of boards and thatch that was ripped apart by the wind.
“We came back to find this wreck. It’s terrible,” said the 41-year-old fisherman, who lives in Carbonera, a small fishing village near the eastern tip of Cuba that found itself in the path of the Category Four storm.
Cubans are used to hurricanes, and people with solidly built houses often welcome their less fortunate neighbors to shelter with them in a storm.
Suarez, his wife and their two children decided to do just that as Matthew arrived after pummeling Haiti and the Dominican Republic with death and destruction.
But like many of his neighbors, he returned home to find almost nothing left.
“It’s difficult,” he said.
“We’re poor families. We don’t have the means to get by. And now we don’t even have water or food.”
He gathered together what remained to take with him to his brother’s house: two rickety fans, a box of clothes, some shoes and a few soaking-wet toys.
– Picking through ruins –
So far Cuba has not registered any casualties from the storm.
But it is only just beginning to tally the damages.
The historic town of Baracoa, the first Spanish settlement on the island, was reduced to “debris and remains,” resident Quirenia Perez told AFP.
Images from the town show dejected residents picking through the ruins.
The town is one of four that have been cut off from the rest of the communist island by large rocks hurled onto the roads by the hurricane.
Few fishermen in Suarez’s village were in the mood to talk as they surveyed the damage left by the storm.
One lucky man who only lost his roof worked to patch together what was left of it.
Others, like Suarez, gathered up what possessions remained and began heading toward the homes of relatives, carrying their belongings on bicycles or their backs.
Asisley Perez, 31, was headed in the other direction. She and several neighbors were riding on an oxcart to see what had become of their homes.
“Some of us know what to expect, others are going to find out what happened to our houses when we arrive. But in the end what matters is that we’re alive,” she said.
Yudier Borges, the cart’s 22-year-old driver, described the destruction they had seen along the way.
“Some houses lost their roofs. But I don’t think there’s any damage that can’t be fixed with hard work — which is what we do here from the day we’re born,” he said.
© 2016 AFP