Cubans Survey Dennis Damage
MADRUGA, Cuba – Even Cubans accustomed to rebuilding every year after damaging hurricanes were daunted Saturday by Hurricane Dennis' devastation: corrugated roofs ripped from buildings, humble homes reduced to kindling, and at least 20 people dead in the Caribbean, with another 100 reported missing in Haiti.
At least 10 people were confirmed dead in Cuba (search), with another 10 people confirmed killed in Haiti. U.N. officials said 100 more were reported missing in Haiti after flooding and mudslides.
"Everything will be destroyed," said Julio Oliver, a 79-year-old farmer in the Cuban town of Madruga, about 50 miles southeast of Havana (search). "This is the strongest storm I've ever seen."
Banana, corn and avocado crops were heavily damaged. Downed utility poles lined the roads of rural Havana province, where it could be days before electrical and water service are restored.
Click here to track Hurricane Dennis' path.
Hundreds of homes were reported destroyed or heavily damaged along Cuba's southeast coast, which was battered when Dennis struck as a Category 4 storm Friday afternoon before slicing across the central portion of the Caribbean's largest island.
More dilapidated homes in the nation's capital and elsewhere were expected to collapse in the coming days as they dry out from the soaking rains and crumble — a common occurrence after storms on the island.
The situation was even more dramatic in impoverished Haiti after Dennis sideswiped the nation on Thursday. More than 98 percent of Haiti is deforested — because people chop trees for fuel — leaving no soil to soak up rain and creating conditions ripe for landslides.
U.N. peacekeepers and local rescue workers were searching for 40 people reported missing after an overflowing river destroyed a bridge in the town of Grand Goave, said Cmdr. Mark Breaud, the commander of the U.N. civilian police for the region.
The bodies of five people killed in the bridge collapse were recovered.
Families and residents reported at least another 60 people missing from flooding and mudslides, many of them in remote, mountainous communities that U.N. troops and rescuers cannot reach, Breaud said.
Haitian Civil Protection officials said at least four people were killed in the southern town of Jacmel but could not immediately provide details. The 10th death in Haiti occurred when an uprooted palm tree crushed a hut in the southwestern town of Les Cayes.
In Cuba, President Fidel Castro (search) said that 10 people were killed by Hurricane Dennis Friday along his country's southeastern coast. But unlike Haitians, Cubans can count on temporary shelter and government food rations in the storm's aftermath.
Communist Cuba has a sophisticated civil defense program that evacuates citizens en masse before hurricanes and ensures basic care afterward. Authorities say 1.5 million Cubans left their homes to stay with family or friends or at government shelters before Dennis' destructive march across the island.
In Haiti, the bridge collapse continues to put people at risk as they cross the swollen river carrying belongings such as goats, sacks of rice and charcoal.
Peacekeepers will build a provisional bridge so the region can receive necessities from elsewhere in the country, said Fernando Castillo, a U.N. civilian police inspector.
"It must be done urgently because in 10 days there won't be any gas here and there will be infections and sickness all over the place," Castillo said. "This could be total chaos."
The situation was so desperate that some troops were using their own money to buy rice to feed children from families who lost corn and mango crops.
"At least so they can eat," Castillo said. "Right now they don't have anything to eat."