Cuba defers military drills due to hurricane


Havana : Cuba has postponed a nationwide military drill after the destructive Hurricane Sandy caused 11 deaths and millions of dollars in damage in the island country, state-run daily Juventud Rebelde said Sunday.

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The Bastion 2012 Strategic Exercise, the largest national military drill in the past three years, would be rescheduled from late November to sometime in the first half of 2013, Cuban leader Raul Castro said at an emergency session of the Council of Ministers.

Castro said what was needed now was to “make a detailed plan for the recovery of the regions (affected by the hurricane) and make a collection of all the resources they may need”, reported Xinhua.

He called on his officials to “make every effort to restore the affected areas to normalcy as quickly as possible”.

This was not the first time that Cuba postponed military exercises after being hit by hurricanes. It had postponed the last large-scale national army drill from November 2008 to November 2009 due to three devastating hurricanes.

Officials said preliminary figures showed the late-season Sandy hurricane has killed 11 people and caused more than $2 billion in losses in Cuba, becoming the second most devastating cyclone to hit the island country in the past 50 years after Dennis claimed 16 lives in July 2005.

Sandy has destroyed substantial rural tourism infrastructure along the state’s coast and mountainous regions, including hotels, mountaintop campsites and cabins, authorities said Sunday.

Tourism, Cuba’s second-biggest foreign currency earner, draws nearly 3 million international travellers annually.

On Sunday, Castro toured some hurricane-affected areas in Cuba, including the central provinces of Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus, local media said.

“We are going to do our utmost in every sense… we are going to organize a collection of everything we can, of all types of resources,” he said, referring to government aid to the worst-hit areas.