Hurricane Ian: Cuba has no electricity


Hurricane Ian slammed all of Cuba and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it made landfall on the island’s western tip as a major hurricane on Tuesday.

Cuba’s Electricity Union said in a statement that work was underway to gradually restore service to the country’s 11 million people overnight. Electricity was initially knocked out for about 1 million people in Cuba’s western provinces, but then the entire grid went down.

Ian arrives in a Cuba struggling with an economic crisis and has faced frequent power outages in recent months. It made landfall as a Category 3 storm on the westernmost tip of the island, ravaging the Pinar del Rio province, which grows much of the tobacco used in Cuba’s iconic cigars.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and others fled the area before Ian’s arrival, which caused flooding, damaged homes and fallen trees. Authorities are still assessing the damage, though no victims were reported as of Tuesday night.

The Ian wind damaged one of Cuba’s most important tobacco farms in La Robaina.

“It’s the apocalypse, a real disaster,” said Hirochi Robaina, the owner of the farm that bears his name and whose grandfather is internationally known.

Robaina, who is also the owner of cigar maker Finca Robaina, posted on social media photos of wooden and thatched roofs smashed to the ground, greenhouses in ruins and overturned carriages.

State media reported that Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel had visited the affected area.

Cuba’s Meteorological Institute said the city of Pinar del Rio suffered its worst storm in an hour and a half.

“For me during the storm was terrible, but here we are still alive,” said Pinar del Rio resident Yusimi Palacios, who asked authorities for a roof and a mattress.

Officials have set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people and taken steps to protect crops, especially tobacco.

The US National Hurricane Center said Cuba was experiencing “significant wind and tidal effects” when the storm hit with top sustained winds of 205 km/h.

Ian is expected to be even stronger in the warm Gulf of Mexico, with peak winds of up to 209 km/h approaching Florida’s southwest coast, where 2.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate.

As the center of the storm moved into the Gulf, devastation appeared in Cuba. Authorities are still assessing damage in its world-famous tobacco belt.

Local government station TelePinar reported heavy damage at the main hospital in the city of Pinar del Rio, posting pictures of collapsed ceilings and toppled trees. No deaths have been reported.

“I lived through the storm at home with my husband and dog. The house’s masonry and zinc roofs were just installed. But the storm tore it apart,” said Mercedes Valdes, who lives along the highway connecting Pinar. del Rio with San. Juan y Martinez. “We couldn’t rescue our things…we just ran out.”

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