Cuba suffers total electrical outage after Hurricane Ian

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Government crews in Cuba were working to restore electricity Tuesday night after Hurricane Ian knocked out power to the entire island, authorities said.

At least two people died in the cyclone, which crossed western Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane Tuesday en route to Florida, authorities said. Buildings and infrastructure in the western province of Pinar del Rio, where Ian made landfall early in the day, suffered major damage.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the region experienced “significant wind and storm surge impacts,” with top sustained winds of 125 mph.

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Authorities initially reported 1 million people without power. Later Tuesday, they said the entire island of 11 million was out.

“The SEN has an exceptional condition, 0 electricity generation (the country without electrical service), associated with the complex weather system,” the Ministry of Energy and Mines tweeted at 8:42 p.m., using the Spanish acronym for the national power grid.

The Electrical Union of Cuba said crews would work through the night to restore power. Failures appeared in the western, central and eastern links.

“It’s a process that is going to take a while,” union chief Lázaro Guerra Hernández told state television.

Yamilé Ramos Cordero, president of the Provincial Defense Council of Pinar del Río, confirmed at least two deaths from collapsing buildings. A woman in the Pinar del Río municipality of San Luis was killed when a wall fell in her home, he said. A man in a different municipality died when a roof collapsed.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel visited Pinar del Río after the storm passed. “The damages are great, although they have not yet been accounted,” he tweeted. “Aid is already pouring in from all over the country.”

Eleazar Moreno Ricardo, the electrical union’s network director, told the Communist Party newspaper Granma that brigades from throughout the island began moving to the western provinces to begin restoring power as soon as the weather permitted.

“The work of evaluating the damage has already begun, and in some areas of the Isla de la Juventud, the first territory to feel the force of the hurricane, it has already been possible to reestablish electrical service,” Granma reported shortly after 9 p.m.

Isla de la Juventud — the Island of Youth — lies some 30 miles off the Cuban mainland.

“The most complex situation is in Pinar del Río, where all transmission networks are out of service, and there is much damage to transformers and secondary networks,” Granma reported.

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CNN Havana bureau chief Patrick Oppmann tweeted a video of himself driving down the Malecón, Havana’s storied waterfront esplanade, now flooded. Some lights were visible in the distance.

Before Ian made landfall, officials in Pinar del Rio set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region.

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Cuba has long experience preparing for hurricanes, but it’s also suffering food and electricity shortages. The economy has been hobbled in part by the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic and in part by new U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and partially maintained by the Biden administration.

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