HAVANA — Cuba's second city is still struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Sandy even as streetlamps in hard-hit lower Manhattan shine brightly and its subways begin rumbling through tunnels again.

Two weeks after the storm blasted through Santiago, Cuba, the electrical grid has been restored to just 28 percent of normal as workers labor around the clock to replace power lines downed by thousands of fallen trees, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported Monday.

"Sources in (state-run power company) Empresa Electrica emphasized that the task is titanic since it means building practically all of the secondary networks from the ground up," the agency said, and those are the ones "that deliver energy to homes and were the most impaired."

Much of the storm debris has been cleared from the streets, and students went back to classes there Monday in a sign of some return to normalcy for the city of about 500,000 people.

Residents said stores are offering early sales of basic foods that had been planned for distribution later in the year. People unable to cook in their darkened homes are relying on canned food, and the lucky few who have power are giving neighbors a hand by boiling their water or letting them charge cellphones.

"Things have been getting better, but we still don't have electricity. Near my house there are streets that do ... I'm anxiously awaiting it," Berta Serguera, 82, told The Associated Press by phone from Santiago.

"The situation is very tough," said her sister Mirta Serguera, 79.

A naval helicopter carrier arrived from the capital carrying enough roofing material for 37,000 homes and more than 6,000 public buildings, the Santiago newspaper Sierra Maestra reported.

A Venezuelan naval vessel docked in Santiago on Monday carrying 227 tons of humanitarian aid for storm victims.

State-run website Cubadebate published photos of a cleaned up Parque de Cespedes, Santiago's main square, stripped of trees but well groomed as workers soldered ornamental metal fences and hauled off shrubbery ripped out by the gale-force winds.

Sandy hit southeastern Cuba on Oct. 25 as a Category 2 hurricane, killing 11 people, damaging more than 200,000 homes and causing major losses to coffee and other crops. Authorities have not yet given an estimate of the total economic toll.

Some 895 schools in Santiago were also damaged, according to a report by Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Many were repaired and functioning again Monday, but 129 were badly damaged, leaving students to gather in private homes, libraries, cultural centers and movie theaters, or be sent to other schools.

Some classes were also held in homes in neighboring Holguin province, Granma said.

In Santiago, hospitals, fire and water stations, bakeries and tall buildings were receiving priority power service, and electrical grid repairs were expected to finish by Nov. 15 with the help of crews drafted from across the country.

President Raul Castro remained in the city on his tour of the hardest-hit zones and promised to personally ensure that recovery efforts proceed apace.

"We all know the problems you have. Do not lose faith in the revolution," Castro said in remarks broadcast on television over the weekend. "I will remain here until the electricity returns."

Yolanda Tabio, a 67-year-old resident of central Santiago, said that after 12 days in the dark, she's hopeful the lights will come back on soon. Her gas was restored three days ago, though phone service is still intermittent.

"The most important thing is to be able to boil water, because it comes out really cloudy and you have to take measures to avoid disease," Tabio said.

John Ging, the operations chief for the U.N. humanitarian office, told a news conference Monday that the agency is mobilizing efforts to help both Cuba and Haiti.

Ging said in Haiti 27,000 homes have been destroyed, crops have been damaged, 50 people have died and "hundreds of thousands are now going to depend on our assistance."

"Cuba is also badly affected," he said. "2,000 schools there are damaged ... and we estimate now 500,000 people in need of assistance, food and other items, so again we are mobilizing response on both of those countries."

___

Associated Press writers Peter Orsi in Havana and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Earlier on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Resident Barbara Garces tries to recover her belongings from his house destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Aguacate, Cuba, Thursday Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

  • A fallen placard lies on the ground after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Thursday Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

  • A woman stands at the entrance of her house in front of a fallen palm tree after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Thursday Oct. 25, 2012.

  • Soldiers an rescue workers patrol after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Thursday Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

  • Fallen trees lie on the street after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Thursday Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

  • A woman washes her clothes in front of her damaged house after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Thursday Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

  • A derailed wagon is seen after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Thursday Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

  • Resident Antonio Garces tries to recover his belongings from his house destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Aguacate, Cuba, Thursday Oct. 25, 2012. AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

  • A transit sign that reads in Spanish "Revolution Square" lies on the ground next to a fallen tree after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Thursday Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

  • Residents inspect damage after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Gibara, Cuba, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

  • Tourists sit on a bus as they tour the city as a wave crashes against the Malecon in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba on Thursday as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Students play in the waves crashing against the Malecon after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba on Thursday as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • A surfer rides a large wave at the inlet in Boynton Beach, Fla. late Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • A man drives his Coco-taxi as a wave crashes against the Malecon after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba on Thursday as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • A youth turns his back to a wave crashing against the Malecon after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba on Thursday as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • A man and his son watch the rough surf at the inlet in Boynton Beach, Fla. Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • A driver maneuvers his classic American car along a wet road as a wave crashes against the Malecon in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba on Thursday as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • A surfer rides a large wave at the inlet in Boynton Beach, Fla. late Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • A group of surfers takes advantage of waves produced by hurricane Sandy's outer bands at Haulover Beach on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 in Miami. (AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, David Santiago)

  • A surfer walks to the beach to take advantage of waves produced by hurricane Sandy's outer bands at Haulover Beach as the Bal Harbour police patrol the area on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 in Miami. (AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, David Santiago)