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Crews in Cuba work to restore power to millions Wednesday after Hurricane Ian ravaged the western region with high winds and dangerous storm surge, triggering an island-wide power outage.
All of Cuba lost power after Ian made landfall early Tuesday morning as a Category 3 storm just southwest of La Coloma in Pinar del Rio province.
The powerful storm was expected to dump up to 16 inches of rain and cause mudslides and flash flooding in the western region, prompting evacuation orders for thousands of residents.
After the storm passed, flooding covered fields and trees in San Juan y Martinez, a town in Pinar del Rio, state media images show Cubadebate.
Cuban officials said they hope to begin restoring power to the country of 11 million people on Tuesday or early Wednesday.
The state-run National Electric System has cut power in the capital Havana to prevent 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 gripped Cuba, leading to shortages of food, fuel and medicines. There have been frequent power outages on the island throughout the summer, leading to rare anti-government protests.
The life-threatening conditions inflicted by Hurricane Ian on Cuba have prompted officials to evacuate more than 38,000 residents from their homes in Pinar del Rio province, according to state news channel TelePinar.
Adriana Rivera, who lives in Spain, told CNN she had been unable to contact her family in Pinar del Rio since Tuesday morning.
“They didn’t expect the hurricane to be this strong.” said Rivera. “I hope they’re okay. The uncertainty is killing me.”
The last time Rivera spoke to her family — including her mother, sister, cousin and cousins — they told her they would seek shelter on the second floor of their house because the first floor was flooded. One of her cousins also shot videos of the family’s flooded home.
Mayelin Suarez, a resident of Pinar del Rio, told Reuters that the storm made for the darkest night of her life.
“We almost lost the roof of our house,” said Suarez. “My daughter, my husband and I tied it with a rope to keep it from flying away.”
Pinar del Rio, known for growing Cuba’s rich tobacco, also suffered from downed fences and vandalism at the Robaina tobacco plantation, according to photos posted by state media.