Cuban officials said they have begun to restore some power 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.
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.
But the capital Havana and other parts of western Cuba remained without power on Wednesday in the wake of the major hurricane, which had advanced northward to Florida.
Earlier it had been reported that the entire island of Cuba was left without power.
Cuba’s Electric Union said in a statement that work was being done to gradually restore service to the country’s 11 million people between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Power was initially knocked out in Cuba’s western provinces, but subsequently, the entire grid collapsed.
“The SEN [Spanish acronym for the power grid] has an exceptional condition, 0 electricity generation, associated with the complex weather system,” Cuba’s ministry of energy and mines said in a tweet.
“The failure is in the western, central and eastern links, it will be restored gradually between tonight and early tomorrow morning.”
The hurricane made landfall in Cuba as a Category 3 storm on the island’s western end, devastating Pinar del Rio province. Hurricane Ian destroyed some of the country’s most important tobacco farms, which are used to make Cuba’s iconic cigars.
The US National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered “significant wind and storm surge impacts” when the storm struck with winds gusting up to 205kph.
Tens of thousands of people were shifted and evacuated and others fled the area ahead of the arrival of the storm which caused flooding, damaged houses and felled trees.
The city of Pinar del Rio was in the heart of the hurricane for nearly and half, Cuba’s Meteorology Institute said.
Videos on social media showed downed power lines and cut off roads in the provinces of Pinar del Rio, Artemisa and Mayabeque.
“Being in the hurricane was terrible for me, but we are here alive,” said Pinar del Rio resident Yusimi Palacios, who asked authorities for a roof and a mattress.
The main hospital in the city suffered heavy damages due to ceiling collapse and downed trees, local government station TelePinar reported.
Authorities were still said to be assessing the damage, although no victims have been reported so far.
“The town is flooded,” said Andy Munoz, 37, a farmer who lives in Playa Cajio in Artemisa.
Cuban officials had set up 55 shelters and taken steps to protect crops, especially tobacco. Despite the efforts, the country’s one of the most important tobacco farms in La Robaina was destroyed by Ian’s winds.
“It was apocalyptic, a real disaster,” Hirochi Robaina, owner of the farm that bears his name and that his grandfather made known internationally, posted on social media, the Associated Press reported.
A hospital in Pinar del Rio, western Cuba, was damaged.
“The town is flooded,” said farmer Andy Munoz.
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 Valdes, who lives close to the city.
State media reported that Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel has visited the region hit hardest by the hurricane.
Already in Florida, next in line of the storm, more than 2.5 million people were under some kind of evacuation warning as the hurricane neared its west coast.
Governor Ron DeSantis urged locals to heed warnings to evacuate to higher ground due to the potential for “catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge”.
Southern Florida began feeling the storm’s first effects Tuesday evening, with rain and powerful winds whipping the region, and tornado threats which will last overnight.