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Cablegate: Mgjm01: Effects of Hurricane Gustav On Cuba

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0718 2471232
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031232Z SEP 08
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3691
INFO RUEHMI/USOFFICE FRC FT LAUDERDALE 0963

UNCLAS HAVANA 000718

SIPDIS

State for WHA/CCA, WHA/EX
State for CA/OCS/ACS/WHA, DS/IP/WHA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC AEMR AMGT CASC KFLO MARR PREL PINR CU XL XK
SUBJECT: MGJM01: Effects of Hurricane Gustav on Cuba

1. Hurricane Gustav made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in
Western Cuba, Pinar del Rio province on August 30 after passing over
Isla de Juventud. The eye of the hurricane passed approximately 50
miles from the city of Havana, mitigating the amount of wind and
rain received. No serious damage has been reported in Havana
although reports from Pinar del Rio and Isla de Juventud state that
the majority of structures there have been destroyed by the storm
although no deaths have yet been reported.

2. USINT Havana began preparing for the storm on August 26th by
refueling and testing all residential generators, securing vacant
properties, reviewing post's Hurricane Plan and advising staff
through email to take all necessary precautions to secure their
residences and personal property from the storm. USINT also tested
the generator at the Chancery building, moved all outdoor furniture
and mobile coverings, secured awnings, moved equipment and supplies
from flood areas in the building, and moved all official vehicles to
higher ground. A town hall meeting was held on August 28 with all
American staff to go over preparations and answer concerns. The
Marines were dispatched to remain at the USINT building along with a
small Maintenance crew during the storm.

3. During the storm, the COM and the RSO activated the USINT phone
tree to check on employees' condition and location several times.
The only problem reported during the storm was a faulty residential
generator and Maintenance immediately addressed the issue.

4. In Havana, there have been no reports of major damage. Minor
damage such as some street flooding, downed trees, antennas and
other small isses was reported. USINT sustained very minor damage
except for the loss of two CCTV cameras and some water entering
through doorways and windows. USINT residences reported downed
trees and some leaking inside homes, but no major damage.
Electrical, water and gas service were restored on August 31, just
over 24 hours after it was lost. The Cuban Government quickly
dispatched workers to remove trees limbs and other debris and most
streets were cleared by midday August 31. Post also activated the
LCN phone tree and those that could be reached reported only minor
damage as well. Havana returned to business as usual on September
1.

LESSONS LEARNED
---------------

5. Post has been in a storm readiness posture since Tropical Storm
Fay less than two weeks ago. By preparing early for Hurrican
Gustav, post was able to dispatch personnel just before the arrival
of the storm to deal with emergencies and also minimize potential
loss of property. Post will continue to maintain this posture with
the possible onset of Tropical Storms Ike and Josephine in the next
10 days.

6. While initiating the LCN phone tree, it was noticed that many
local staff do not have cell phones and contacting them to ascertain
their status was difficult. Post is working to help local staff
secure cell phones to facilitate communication. In addition, some
American staff members were difficult to reach after the storm. All
staff members will be reminded to carry their cell phones at all
times during an emergency and to inform Post One or the RSO if they
will be away from a phone.

7. In conclusion, while Hurricane Gustav did not cause any major
damage in Havana, post was well-prepared for the storm and will
continue this posture throughout the remainder of the 2008 Hurricane
Season.

FARRAR

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