Tropical storm Laura hits Cuba amid Covid-19 pandemic

Tropical storm Laura has hit Cuba, bringing with it heavy rains and gusty winds, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the island-nation.

In Baracoa, the storm has flooded streets, causing damage to houses and buildings near the eastern city’s seafront, reports Xinhua news agency.

As the storm’s powerful winds washed out roads and crippled communication in mountainous regions, streets in northern and southern coastal towns have been filled with debris and mud.

Local governments in the country’s central and western provinces have also taken precautionary measures in light of the imminent impact of the storm.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has posed new challenges to the management of natural disasters in Cuba since the health crisis has complicated the rescue and evacuation requirements.

Jose Antonio Torres Iribar, head of the provincial defense council in the capital Havana, said that measures must be adopted to minimize the risk of virus spread in government shelters.

“We must foresee everything at evacuation centres,” he said.

“If under normal circumstances, these shelters could house 500 people, now this number must be reduced for the evacuation process not to become a problem in the context of the pandemic.”

As lockdown restrictions have been reimposed in Havana, the rest of the country’s provinces and the Isle of Youth special municipality are gradually returning to the “new normal”.

Miguel Angel Hernandez, a weather forecaster at the Cuban state TV, said that the coronavirus pandemic, along with climate change, is a major threat to the Caribbean countries.

Forecasters have termed the current hurricane season in the Caribbean “extremely active”. predicting 19 to 25 named storms, including seven to 11 hurricanes.

The hurricane season in the Caribbean runs through November 30.