Written by Camila Acosta and Oscar Lopez
Hurricane Ian lashed Cuba on Tuesday with heavy rain and winds of up to 125 mph, knocking out power to the entire island and killing two people, according to the authorities.
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 local news reports. One was a man in San Juan y Martínez who was electrocuted while trying to disconnect a wind turbine that he used to irrigate his field. The second was a 43-year-old woman who died in San Luis when one of the walls of her house collapsed.
Cuba’s western provinces, where the hurricane made landfall, have been the hardest hit. Videos shared on social media from the town of 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.
On Tuesday, flooding in western Cuba damaged houses and tobacco crops, an important agricultural industry. In the municipality of San Luis, north of the city of Santiago de Cuba, one of the largest tobacco growing areas had been decimated.
Thousands of families were evacuated, and widespread power outages were reported in the western city of Pinar del Río. Tourists in places like Varadero, a popular beach resort in the country’s north, were relocated to more secure locations.