Candles, flashlights, mobile phone: In Cuba, which experienced a complete blackout following the passage of Hurricane Ian, residents resorted to makeshift ways to have some light overnight Tuesday through Wednesday.
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In this country of 11.2 million people, few have a gasoline generator, except for hospitals or government offices and administrations.
“What are we going to do?,” Makel, 35, told AFP gruffly as he helped a friend repair his “Almendron,” one of the famous American sedans still circulating in Cuba from the 1950s.
Connected to the engine, the lamp hung in the trunk of a car parked on the Paseo del Prado, one of the main thoroughfares in the heart of Havana, plunged into complete darkness.
The power grid was paralyzed across the country. Ian, a major Category 3 hurricane, caused major material damage in Pinar del Río (West) province as well as neighboring Artemisa and Havana and its 2.1 million residents. Its center left Cuban territory at 9:50 am (GMT 1:50 pm).
At some places, traffic was disrupted due to fallen trees. In Havana, the Malecon, a famous coastal boulevard, was flooded.
“Currently there is no electricity service anywhere in the country,” Lázaro Guerra, technical director of state power company Union Electrica, told Cuban television.
According to the Ministry of Power and Mines, it was an “unusual” incident that power was gradually being restored.
The island is already facing severe problems in power generation as eight thermoelectric power stations are lying idle. This summer, power cuts have led to protests, especially at night, with pot-bellied chanting, making it difficult for many to sleep without fans or air conditioners.
The power cuts were among the triggers for large-scale anti-government demonstrations on July 11 and 12, 2021, the biggest in 60 years on the communist island.
According to Mr. Guerra, the failure occurred on the western, central and eastern lines of the country. “The western zone is facing an additional problem with a bunch of transmission lines due to the passage of Hurricane Ian,” he added.
The outage worries Harold Baez, 27, who works as a security guard at Havana’s famed Coppelia ice cream parlor.
“A breakup of this magnitude always creates uncertainty, which is normal,” he said, “everything has to overcome.” He goes to the cafeteria of the Habana Libre Hotel, which, like other establishments for international tourists, is lit by generators.
With no public lights or traffic lights on the streets, the central districts of the capital are in complete darkness. Some locals use candles or battery-powered lamps. Others come to their doorsteps with their cellphones flashing lights.
“We went out because the baby was crying,” said a woman who did not want to be recognized in the light of her husband’s phone.
For Yolmis Martinez, 36, who works at the restaurant, the breakup is also good. “It’s not what we wanted, but it’s a way to save money, so on the positive side, at least we’ll save money,” she says, returning to the house of friends she sheltered in during the storm.