World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Update
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

18 October 1999


cf. WCC Press Release of 8 October 1999
cf. WCC Press Update of 12 October 1999
cf. WCC Press Release of 13 October 1999
cf. WCC Press Update of 14 October 1999

Trapped in Cuba's capital by Hurricane Irene, an international ecumenical delegation witnessed the organizational ability of the Cuban people as they mobilized all across the island to move those in danger out of harm's way.

Although four people died and several aging buildings collapsed in downtown Havana, observers here claimed the damages wrought by Irene would have been much greater were it not for Cuba's civil defence.

"We witnessed determined discipline, there was no nervousness, people clearly knew how to handle the crisis provoked by the hurricane," said the Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

Raiser came to Havana accompanied by regional ecumenical leaders for the first stop of a four-nation swing through the Caribbean and Central America. Originally scheduled to leave Cuba on 14 October, the group was unable to leave the island nation until the following day when it flew to southern Mexico. Yet the lingering presence of the hurricane meant the delegation was unable to fly on to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where it had scheduled meetings with church officials and civil society leaders.

Once weather conditions permit, Raiser will fly to Costa Rica, the Central American nation which was to be the third country on the group's itinerary. On 21 October he will travel to Honduras, which was left devastated almost a year ago by Hurricane Mitch.

Contact: WCC Media Relations Office, Tel. +41.22.791.61.53

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.