WEATHER ALERT

Cuba begins to turn on lights after Ian blacks out island

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HAVANA (AP) — Cuban officials said they had begun to restore some power Wednesday after Hurricane Ian knocked out electricity to the entire island while devastating some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it hit the island’s western tip as a major storm.

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HAVANA (AP) — Cuban officials said they had begun to restore some power Wednesday after Hurricane Ian knocked out electricity to the entire island while devastating some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it hit the island’s western tip as a major storm.

At least two people were reported killed.

The Energy and Mines Ministry announced it had restored energy to three regions by activating two large power plants in Felton and Nuevitas and was working to get others back on line.

A family walks through the rain in search of shelter after their home flooded when Hurricane Ian hit in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Lights started to flicker on in the capital, Havana, but much of the city and other parts of western Cuba remained without power on Wednesday in the wake of the major hurricane, which had advanced northward to Florida. It was the first time in memory — perhaps ever — that the whole island had lost power.

“A blackout this big has never occurred in my lifetime,” said Yamila Morena, A 51-year-old homemaker who lives with her son in central Havana. “We can’t sleep at all without a fan, without air entering.”

On Tuesday, Ian hit a Cuba that has been struggling with an economic crisis and has faced frequent power outages in recent months. It made landfall as a Category 3 storm on the island’s western end, devastating Pinar del Río province, where much of the tobacco used for Cuba’s iconic cigars is grown.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and others fled the area ahead of the arrival of Ian, which caused flooding, damaged houses and toppled trees. State media reported two deaths in the province: a woman killed by a falling wall and another by a collapsed roof.

Ian’s winds damaged one of Cuba’s most prestigious tobacco farms, Finca Robaina, where photos on social media showed wood-and-thatch roofs smashed to the ground, greenhouses in rubble and wagons overturned.

This GOES-East GeoCcolor satellite image taken at 12:41 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, and provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Ian over the Gulf of Mexico. Cuba remained in the dark early Wednesday after Hurricane Ian knocked out its power grid and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it hit the island’s western tip as a major storm. (NOAA via AP)

“Although the first impact is very painful, there’s nothing to do but overcome the adversity,” said President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered “significant wind and storm surge impacts” when the hurricane struck with top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph).

Ian was even stronger Wednesday when it made landfall on the Florida coast.

In Cuba, local government station TelePinar reported heavy damage at the main hospital in Pinar del Rio city, tweeting photos of collapsed ceilings and downed trees. No deaths were reported.

Videos on social media showed downed power lines and cut off roads in the provinces of Pinar del Rio, Artemisa and Mayabeque. A hospital in Pinar del Río was damaged.

Fallen electricity lines, metal and tree branches litter a street after Hurricane Ian hit Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

“The town is flooded,” said farmer Andy Muñoz, 37, who lives in Playa Cajío in Artemisa.

He said many people lost their belongings due to the storm surge.

“I spent the hurricane at home with my husband and the dog. The masonry and zinc roof of the house had just been installed. But the storm tore it down,” said Mercedes Valdés, who lives along the highway connecting Pinar del Río to San Juan y Martínez. “We couldn’t rescue our things … we just ran out.”

___

AP journalist Osvaldo Angulo in Pinar del Rio contributed to this report.

Fallen utility poles and fallen branches line a street after Hurricane Ian hit Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A man checks his mobile phone as he stands next to fallen trees bought down by the winds of Hurricane Ian, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, September 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation's main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)
A passenger sleeps on the floor after his flight was delayed due to Hurricane Ian, at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane and left 1 million people without electricity, then churned on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
A man carries two children in the rain in search of shelter after Hurricane Ian flooded their home in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A family walks in the rain after Hurricane Ian hit Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Passenger try to reschedule their flights after many were cancelled or delayed due to Hurricane Ian, at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane and left 1 million people without electricity, then churned on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
People rest as they cut down a tree that fell on top of a boat due to Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Cuba remained in the dark early Wednesday after Ian knocked out its power grid and devastated some of the country's most important tobacco farms when it hit the island's western tip as a major storm. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
An electric company worker mounted on a crane uses a machete to cut away tree branches felled on power lines in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Cuba remained in the dark early Wednesday after Ian knocked out its power grid and devastated some of the country's most important tobacco farms when it hit the island's western tip as a major storm. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)
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