Cuban authorities began restoring electricity to the island’s grid on Wednesday, but warned Cubans that the process would be slow and painstaking after the entire nation was plunged into darkness overnight.
The electricity grid is divided into three sections, and the most damage was on the western part of the island where crews were working slowly to restore power, the national electricity company, Unión Eléctrica, and state media said in a series of tweets overnight. Power was slowly coming back on in the east, where the hurricane had done little to no damage. And the hope was to start generating enough power in the east and center to connect the three sections. It was not clear how much of the electricity had been restored by Wednesday morning.
Hurricane Ian slammed into the western part of the Caribbean island on Tuesday as a powerful Category 3 storm, packing winds of up to 125 miles per hour, dumping inches of rain and causing deadly flooding.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy said the power grid had collapsed in the wake of the storm, leaving the country in the dark as it tried to recover from heavy flooding and extensive damage. Before the sun set, residents braved wind and rain to search for food and basic supplies, lining up under overhangs to buy a piece of chicken or a bottle of oil.
At least two people were killed, according to state media.
Cuba’s western provinces, where the hurricane made landfall, have been the hardest hit. Videos shared on social media from the town of La Coloma, along Cuba’s southern coast, showed people inside their homes with water up to their knees.
The hurricane comes as Cuba continues to recover from one of the worst periods of financial hardship in the country’s history, with the nation’s ailing infrastructure already producing widespread power blackouts. The financial misery, along with ongoing political repression, sparked one of the largest protest movements in decades last year.
The island has long borne the brunt of Atlantic storms. In 2008, two hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, blasted across the country, leaving at least seven people dead, damaging crops and buildings, and setting off more than 150 landslides in Havana.