A man uses his mobile phone to light a street in Havana during a blackout caused by Hurricane Ian, September 27, 2022 (AFP / YAMIL LAGE)
Candles, flashlights, mobile phones: in Cuba, completely deprived of electricity after the passage of hurricane Ian, the inhabitants resorted to temporary means to get some light during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday.
In this country of 11.2 million people, few people have a gasoline generator except for hospitals or government offices and administrations.
“What are we going to do? Survive,” Maykel, 35, dryly told AFP, helping a friend repair his “Almendron”, one of the famous American sedans from the 1950s that still circulate in Cuba.
Connected to the engine, a lamp hangs in the trunk of the car, parked on the Paseo del Prado, one of the main roads in the heart of Havana, totally plunged into darkness.
All over the country the power grid is down. Ian, a major Category 3 hurricane, caused extensive material damage in the province of Pinar del Rio (West) as well as in the neighboring cities of Artemisa and Havana and its 2.1 million inhabitants. Its center left Cuban territory at 9.50 (13.50 GMT).
In some places, uprooted trees cut off traffic. In Havana, the swell flooded the Malecon, a famous coastal boulevard.
“There is currently no electricity service anywhere in the country,” Lázaro Guerra, technical director of Union Electrica, the state electricity company, told Cuban television.
– Recurring cuts –
An “extraordinary” event, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, which adds that electricity will be restored gradually.
The island is already experiencing serious problems in producing electricity due to the obsolescence of the eight thermoelectric power plants. This summer, power outages have sparked protests, especially at night, with pot concerts, as without fans or air conditioning it is difficult for many to sleep.
The power outages had been one of the triggers for the large-scale anti-government demonstrations on July 11 and 12, 2021, the largest in 60 years on the communist island.
Satellite image of Category 3 Hurricane Ian and forecast for the coming days (AFP/)
According to Mr. Guerra said the fault occurred on lines in the western, central and eastern parts of the country. “The western zone is experiencing a further complication of a group of transmission lines that are out of service due to the passage of Hurricane Ian,” he added.
The outage worries Harold Baez, 27, a security guard at the famous Coppelia ice cream parlor in Havana.
“A collapse of this magnitude always generates uncertainty, that’s normal,” he said, adding, “everything has to be overcome.” He goes to the cafeteria of the Habana Libre hotel, which, like other establishments for international tourists, is kept lit by generators.
Without public lighting or traffic lights in the streets, the districts in the center of the capital are in total darkness. Some locals use candles or battery-powered lamps. Others come out on their doorsteps and light up their mobile phones.
On a street in Havana after Hurricane Ian hit on September 27, 2022 (AFP / YAMIL LAGE)
“We went out because the baby was crying,” says a woman, who does not want to be identified, looking at her husband’s phone.
For Yoelmis Martínez, 36, employed in a restaurant, this division may even be good. “It’s not that we wanted to, but it’s also a way of saving, that’s the positive side, we save anyway,” she confides, returning to the friend’s house where she sought refuge during the hurricane.