In Cuba, residents described how people were coping with the aftermath of the hurricane that came ashore on a beach southwest of Santiago and swept north across the eastern part of the island.
The Army has been clearing the streets and removing trees that have toppled electrical poles and wires, but most of the city remains without power, water or telephone service, said del Castillo, who was reached via an Internet connection over the weekend.
State-run media said that electricity had been restored to about 80 percent of those who lost power in Holguín, but restoration was proving more complicated in Santiago where 72 work brigades from around the country were working on returning electricity.
“The churches in Santiago are in very bad shape — some are just rubble; others have lost their roofs,’’ said del Castillo. “We will celebrate mass in the streets.’’
For a country that was officially atheist until 1992, there was already a shortage of churches and priests before Sandy hit. Now, del Castillo said he expects the church’s Casa del Misión (Mission House) program to expand. Under the mission house concept, parish priests and nuns travel a circuit to communities without priests and religious activities are held in people’s homes or makeshift facilities.
But he added, “The priority isn’t the church buildings; it is the people.’’
In a city known for its hospitality as well as for being the cradle of the revolution, neighbors, even small children who are clearing branches, have pitched in to help those with less, he said.
“People are just happy they’re alive and they’re concentrating on rebuilding and how they can help each other,’’ said del Castillo.
With windows smashed and without power, many stores are closed and food supplies are difficult, he said. Those who have food are sharing with neighbors and cooking on wood fires in the streets.
State-run media said the government was shipping in food, including bread, from nearby provinces.
Some food, said del Castillo, also has begun to arrive via Caritas, the Catholic relief organization in Cuba. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami is working with Caritas and Catholic Relief Services to help those in the areas most affected by Sandy. It is accepting monetary donations through its website (www.ccadm.org) but is not calling for food donations at this point.
Schools have been closed since Thursday in Santiago and many that remain intact are being used to house the homeless. Del Castillo said he has two families that are staying at his church,
The first shipment of 12,000 roofs arrived in Santiago on Saturday via train, according to the website of Sierra Maestra, a provincial newspaper.
The government said that was the first wave of shipments of some 84,000 roofs and 220,000 tons of cement expected to arrive in the province via train and ship.