Hurricane Sandy damages Guantanamo war-court compound, cancels hearings for week

Miami HeraldOctober 25, 2012 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- Hurricane Sandy swept through this remote base Thursday, ripping boats from their berths, cutting power to all but emergency facilities and shutting down the Pentagon’s war crimes tribunal.

Residents remained confined to their quarters at midday Thursday even as power was restored to some sections after a night of cascading blackouts.

The hospital compound was visibly lit throughout the night even as the rest of the base was dark and a portion of the U.S.-run fence-line opposite Cuban-controlled territory could no longer be seen.

Navy police and power workers were the only people seen on the streets of this 45-square-mile base in southeast Cuba throughout the morning. Signs of the Category 2 hurricane left damage across the war-court compound.

It shredded a tent that houses the media and tore camouflage netting off fences that obscure from the public the way captives are moved to and from court. The storm also exposed a hidden federal bureau of prisons approved cell meant to house convicts who could someday be brought here to testify at the war crimes tribunal.

No injuries were reported at the seafront detention center, which houses 166 foreign men as war on terror prisoners, said base spokeswoman Kelly Wirfel, adding the base hospital never lost power throughout the storm.

Court sessions in the USS Cole and Sept. 11 terror cases hearings have been canceled the rest of the week and Pentagon officials are leaving on Friday.

The Pentagon built the compound of tents, trailers and a state-of-the-art eavesdropping-proof courthouse on an abandoned airstrip overlooking Guantánamo Bay for the Sept. 11 and Cole case war crimes tribunals. Both are death-penalty trials.

Sandy also cut some telephone and Internet service at the base, along with the electricity. Workers were still assessing the scattered damage across the base late Thursday morning, Wirfel said.

The storm washed away a pier and several pontoon and sailboats at a recreational marina behind guest housing.

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