Liam Manuel, 11 years old tells us how he lived the landfall of Hurricane Matthew in Cuba.
Let me tell you how we lived hurricane Matthew in our community, Yateritas (San Antonio del Sur), in Guantanamo. Since the informative phase, all the village kept informed of the meteorological reports and once we knew about the possibility of this phenomenon passing through, we started adopting the necessary measures to avoid the loss of human lives and property. A week before its predicted arrival, us children also contributed in activities to keep things safe. We helped our families and neighbors to protect kitchenware, clothes, shoes; we were like working ants, from here to there, from over there to here. I put away very safe my fishing lines and hooks, I love fishing, and I didn’t want to lose them. My mum put away everything at the house and helped us all, she also took care of protecting the important documents. We helped my sister, who was six months pregnant, to safeguard all the baby’s things.
”25 people took shelter in my house”
During those days I would go with my mum, who is the Headmaster of my school, to visit the houses of the families in the community, to identify those which wouldn’t be strong enough to resist a hurricane. My mum is a member of the Defence Council and it is her responsibility to take care of the community in advance. To those families my mother would indicate where they would have to evacuate to, and she offered them the school as a safe storage space; the chemistry and physics lab became a storage of all sorts!
Twenty five people took shelter in my house, including old people, children and pregnant women. My house is identified by the Civil Defence as an evacuation center. All these people arrived the house since early morning on the 4th October. We all knew and helped each other, we were like a big family. Throughout the day we helped them to put away safely their belongings in our house, bags of clothes, TVs, etc… My neighbor Carlos Antonio and I would help with whatever was needed. We had collected a lot of safe water in anticipation so there would be enough for everyone. We would cook for everyone, like a shelter.
” That night, it felt like the world was going to end”
That night the strong winds and rain suddenly arrived, it felt like the world was going to end. By midnight we could see how the waters of the river run through our backyard. It was terrifying. Hours later things went calm again and some of the people staying with us went back to their houses as it seemed like Matthew had already left. But around 1:00 am the waters came back, even stronger, it was desperate. Quickly we got back to saving the animals. We could only save six of the seven puppies of mi doggie Blanquita. We also tried to keep the chicken’s eggs warm, wrapping them up in blankets, but we lost them all. Only a chicken can do that.
”I really hope we don’t have to go through something like that ever again”
Around 2:00 am, when Matthew was gone, we came out to the road. We could hear the rough sound of the sea and how the river waters went away. On the streets there were lots of people, chatting, discussing what to do next. We went back to the house to organize it all and I tell you from the bottom of my heart that it was an experience that I will never forget. I really hope we don’t have to go through something like this ever again because it’s so sad to see it all destroyed, the books wet and our school deteriorated. Our school suffered damages in its roof and walls, the river came in up to a meter high, flooding it all with mud. Luckily the families evacuated there were safe, although they did suffer big losses in their houses, as they live in the lower part of the village where the water penetrations were the worst. The children from the lower areas lost all their books and games.
The next day, after a long night with hardly any sleep we went to the school and we helped out with the sanitation together with the other children and their families. We had to bring out the mud and brush the walls. We helped recover the school for three days, during which we had no classes. When we resumed classes it felt different, many classmates were not the same, they were sad. The timetables and the rooms had changed, although they promised it was temporary. In the following days, we performed and played a lot.
”With each disaster, we learn to be better prepared”
My fishing lines and hooks I was able to keep, luckily my house is strong. But many of my friends lost the roofs and windows of their houses, and their dearest belongings. Everyone kept saying that the most important is that we were all alive and unharmed. It’s true, all my friends were OK and we could all meet again and talk about what had happened, we had all had different experiences. In Haiti (just a few kilometres from our shores), we saw on TV that Matthew has swept away towns and villages and killed lots of people, including children. That is very sad and unfair.
It’s almost been six months and I realize how important is to be prepared in the best way and follow all the orientations of the civil defence. You always lose something and you suffer, but with each disaster we learn to be better prepared and be stronger for the next one.
Liam Manuel Morega 11 years old,
from Guantanamo, Cuba
This post is also available in: French