New Orleans' mayor to learn about disaster management in Cuba

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin arrived in Cuba late Oct. 16 on a mission to learn about how to deal with storms, a spokeswoman said.

"We understand we may have a lot to learn from the Cubans in terms of disaster preparedness and how they have dealt with hurricanes," spokeswoman Ceeon Quiett said.

Cuba is internationally applauded for exceptional disaster management, according to a news release from Nagin's office.

The mayor of Galveston, Texas, another city hit hard by Gulf of Mexico hurricanes, visited Cuba earlier this year.

Nagin returns Oct. 22, according to his office, which didn't announce the trip until it issued a press release at 5:01 a.m. Oct. 16.

In the Cuban capital, Havana, Nagin planned to meet with several officials, including some from the Latin American Medical Centers for Disaster. He also planned to learn about preparations the Cuba Defense Committee makes in advance of disasters.

Three powerful hurricanes hit Cuba last year, damaging half a million homes and causing $10 billion in losses, according to the Cuban government. But only seven people died, thanks to a smooth evacuation plan.

Some aspects of the communist nation's response, including mandatory evacuations, may not be possible in a democracy.