On 4 October 2016 Hurricane Matthew struck far eastern Cuba, causing more the US$2.5 billion of damage. Amazingly and thankfully, no direct fatalities were recorded although 4 people died more than a month later when a bridge damaged by Matthew collapsed near Moa. The biggest single infrastructure impact around Baracoa was the destruction of the Moa-Baracoa Highway bridge over the River Toa.
While visiting in December 2016, a causeway was being constructed to allow vehicles to cross. In the interim, people crossed via boat and cable ferry as Rocío and I did to and from Alejandro de Humboldt National Park.
Baracoa is famous for its coconut, cacao and banana although these, like all fresh fruit and vegetables, were rarely sighted on our visit. The Category 5 hurricane destroyed the region’s crops. Palm and other trees lay fallen in the countryside.
In Baracoa’s city, many rooftops remained unrepaired, debris lay on the beach and the baseball stadium was not operational.
Some of the roofs are visible in this video I recorded of a storm hitting the city:
We observed some hurricane recovery evidence. Construction supplies were stacked near the stadium and several trucks had signs on them indicating they were reconstruction vehicles.
Key Baracoa industry tourism was struggling during our visit. Upon arrival, the driver took us to a casa particular (private accommodation) he knew. When we decided we wanted a place closer the coast the host was in tears. She had probably received very few guests if any since the hurricane.
Some of the locals were not impressed with the then president, Raúl Castro, feeling he had ignored the region until Hurricane Matthew.
I am glad we made the decision to visit the region after the hurricane. Hopefully Baracoa and surrounding districts have well and truly recovered by now.