The day after the floods receded, work gets underway to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Wilma's storm surge on the seawall of Havana.
From a news report (KRT Wire):
Cuba's capital city woke to a soupy mess Monday, as a powerful storm surge from Hurricane Wilma washed through neocolonial homes, shattered fishing docks and left the U.S. Interests Section standing in a giant puddle of seawater.
Rescue workers in inflatable rafts plucked scores of residents from arched patios and swirled colonnades in the Vedado and Centro Havana districts. Waves towered over the Malecon, or seawall, throughout the day, and swamped stylish old houses four blocks inland.
Red Cross workers said several people had suffered cuts as they scrambled through water and debris, but there were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths. State-run broadcasts said the flooding in Havana was the most extensive in three decades, outdoing even a memorable 1993 storm that inundated large swaths of the city.
"I lost everything," said Yuveysy Gotierez, wearing her house key on a pink cord around her neck, her hands empty. Wading back towards her home in more than three feet of water, despite strong sea currents, she said anxiously, "I have to save something."
Others hoisted their beds onto blocks and their belongings onto tabletops, and hoped for the best as the sea lapped at their feet. Police cordoned off all roads sloping towards the ocean, including Linea, the grand, tree-lined avenue that leads to the historic Riviera hotel.
"The biggest danger now is lack of discipline," said Agustin Cruz, a Red Cross volunteer, as he watched youths swim and paddle in the swirling currents at the end of the street. "There are sharp objects in the water that could cause an accident."
As he spoke, a door and an empty packet of cigarettes floated by. A long aluminum boat motored past, zipping between street signs and tall verandahs.
A few blocks away, the U.S. Interests Section, the seat of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba, stood empty and flooded. Evacuated homes across the street were filled with eight feet of water.
The Cuban government evacuated some 700,000 residents in the long days leading up to the storm, focusing most of its efforts on moving residents from rustic and unstable homes, especially in coastal communities to the south.
Overnight Sunday, however, the threat of a massive storm surge in the island's most populated city became a daunting reality. Cuba's northern coast usually sees the remnants of storm systems, but rarely takes the worst of the weather.
Nestled in Havana's inner port, the historic city center remained dry.
To the west, however, frothy waves also crashed across the Hemingway Marina, named for the Nobel laureate Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Cuba for 21 years. The marina's coastal slip was completely submerged and luxury reef cruisers rose to the level of manicured lawns.
"This is a total disaster. The ocean is angry," said watchman Esteban Baloy, as fisherman scavenged nets and buoys in a small inlet in Havana's Santa Fe district. The men took turns rowing around in the most sea-worthy boats they could find, lifting crates and fishing hooks out of the muddy water. Some 40 boat-shelters were smashed to sticks.
"They're going to have a hard time," Baloy said. "There isn't any place to find wood to rebuild. You have to salvage what you can."
Cuba's government offers free housing and work materials to its citizens, but resources are thin. On an average salary of $15 a month, most residents find building materials prohibitively expensive.
"This has never happened," said Julian Hidalgo, 78, in a pork-pie hat and an oversized yellow rain coat, as he watched the water inch up his street. He wagged a wizened finger in front of his face. "This is a surprise."