Cuba in nationwide blackout after Hurricane Ian slams into the Caribbean island nation

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Havana, Cuba
CNN

Crews in Cuba are working to restore power for millions Wednesday after Hurricane Ian battered the western region with high winds and dangerous storm surge, causing an island-wide blackout.

The entirety of Cuba lost power after Ian made landfall as a Category 3 storm just southwest of La Coloma in the Pinar del Rio province early Tuesday morning.

The powerful storm was expected to dump up to 16 inches of rain and trigger mudslides and flash flooding in the western region, prompting evacuation orders for thousands of residents.

After the storm moved through, floodwaters blanketed fields and trees were uprooted in San Juan y Martinez, a town in Pinar del Rio, images from state media outlet Cubadebate show.

Cuban officials said they are hoping to begin restoring power to the country of 11 million people late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

The country’s state-run National Electric System turned off power in the capital Havana to avoid electrocutions, deaths and property damage until the weather improved. However, the nationwide blackouts were caused by the storm rather than planned.

An economic crisis has been gripping Cuba, leading to shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Blackouts across the island have been regular all summer, which has led to rare protests against the government.

Cuba power outages in Havana on Tuesday

The life-threatening conditions Hurricane Ian inflicted on Cuba prompted officials to evacuate more than 38,000 residents from their homes in the Pinar del Rio province, according to state news channel TelePinar.

Adriana Rivera, who lives in Spain, told CNN she hadn’t been able to contact her family living in Pinar del Rio since Tuesday morning.

Cuba power outage in Havana is seen on Tuesday.

“They didn’t expect the hurricane to be this strong.” Rivera said. “I hope they’re okay. The uncertainty is killing me.”

The last time Rivera spoke to her family – including her mother, sister, cousin and nephews – they told her they would seek shelter on the second floor of their home because the first floor was flooding. One of her nephews also recorded videos of the family’s flooded home.

Mayelin Suarez, a resident of Pinar del Rio, told Reuters the storm made for the darkest night of her life.

“We almost lost the roof off our house,” Suarez said. “My daughter, my husband and I tied it down with a rope to keep it from flying away.”

Pinar del Rio, known for growing Cuba’s rich tobacco, also suffered downed fences and destruction at the Robaina tobacco farm, according to photos posted by state media.

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