As soon as the damage that the onslaught of Hurricane Ian left on Pinar del Río soil was confirmed, multisectoral brigades from Las Tunas got ready, without time for large suitcases or extensive farewells, “it was a matter of grabbing the equipment, getting hold of the tools, resources, and everything ready." As usual among these specialists when nature plunges its capricious rage against some region of the Cuban geography.
José Raúl Gómez Segura is a telecommunication worker who breaks the dawn far from home and, for a few days, his panorama has been left by an angry atmospheric event. For him, in particular, nostalgia competes with commitment. And it is that he became a father very recently, long enough for his tasks to carry the longing of the family that awaits him.
Support at home also counts, tasks are duplicated and the weight on women's backs is enormous. José Raúl's wife, just out of a surgical process, accompanies him in his decision. She, like so many others, understands the importance of helping, of reaching out in times of disaster no matter how much sacrifice it costs.
The brigade of 14 members to which he belongs is working in the municipality of Consolación del Sur; it is named Unidos Venceremos (Together We Win) and brings together different specialties. They join forces with other colleagues in the country to achieve a return to normality as quickly as possible.
“The damages are concentrated in broken poles and cables on the ground; chainsaws were sent because the fallen trees hinder our work route. Once the debris is cleared, the cabling is placed and the telephone service is gradually restored. The energy sector will also be worked on. Our actions are also focused on revitalizing the damaged cellular network,” engineer Nelson Francisco Reyes González, the director of the Territorial Division of ETECSA in Las Tunas, commented.
Engineer Manuel Rojas, head of Operations, explained that since Sunday the line brigade has been carrying out maintenance and restoring the downed routes, together with the replacement of poles and cables, while the tyers are changing terminal boxes, splicing new copper cables, and redoing connections. Meanwhile, the cutting and downspout Brigade provides service to the subscribers' network.
Rojas assured that they are working with the priority of restoring fiber optics, the central plant, the radio bases, and connectivity links which have suffered deterioration and are on the ground; he pointed out that the most notable damages are concentrated in the subscribers' network, the connection to the telephone device in the home.
OTHER ARMS, SAME COMMITMENT
Electricians, also veterans in these solidarity trades, arrived very early to the "fight" and had the difficult and imperative task of making light in the face of the "darkness" of the West. They have already made some progress, because they have given back that service to families and business organizations in the municipalities of Plaza de la Revolución and El Cerro, in Havana. And on Tuesday they left for Pinar del Río.
Carlos Alberto Arias Sobrino, director of the Pinar del Rio Electric Company and head of the Vicente Garcia Gonzalez contingent, said 65 specialists traveled to the capital and immediately began the recovery work.
Arias Sobrino informed that they were immersed in the rehabilitation of breakdowns in the primary and secondary circuits in Havana localities. "The impact of the meteorological phenomenon was considerable, broken connections, fallen poles, damaged transformers... We have had to work intensely, some days we have finished almost at dawn and we did it with great dedication because we know that the population has been without electricity for many days.”
The foresters are also doing their part to combat the ravages of Ian. Adalberto Guerrero López, director-general of the Agroforestry Integral Company, explained that four chainsaw operators and an equal number of assistants traveled with all necessary logistical means to remain in that province for a prolonged period.
He stated that these workers will not return until they complete the task and will participate in environmental sanitation actions and support the use of wood and other resources from fallen trees.
Guerrero López pointed out that this team already has the experience of Hurricane Matthew, which affected the province of Guantánamo in 2016, and of severe local storms and other phenomena that have occurred in the municipalities of Las Tunas.
Another group of workers is also getting ready to travel soon to Pinar del Río to contribute to the reconstruction of tobacco curing houses and homes, infrastructures ravaged by Ian's winds.
“They are eight carpenters that have also gone through similar experiences in that sister territory. And if more were needed, the Agroforestry Company of the province of Las Tunas has sufficient human resources, willing to lend that solidarity to those who now need our help.
Workers from the AZCUBA Sugar Business Group also left for the province of Cienfuegos to collaborate. Mayelín Reyes León, director of the Services Company at the Amancio Rodríguez Sugar Company, specified that the brigades and three vehicles with a lifter each work in the cleaning and collecting debris in the so-called Pearl of the South.
Many children of this eastern region are far from home. They defy, with their boots on and facing dissimilar challenges, the destruction of a stubborn gale. The days of effort are extended and the food often arrives by hand, without tables or pauses. José Raúl counts the days that separate him from the baby he has almost not been able to enjoy. His wife longs for his return.
No one has said how long the chores in the west will last. They understand the impossibility of being with their loved ones, of comfort. In the face of natural disasters, Las Tunas people understand support, union, and a hand on the shoulder. Those who have been summoned today, the previous ones, and those who will be in the future, are not extraordinary faces, they are just people who know about solidarity.