BY ANDREA RODRÍGUEZ
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.
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.
“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.
“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.