Recharge your cell phone, find a place in the neighbor’s freezer: until the electricity is fully restored, Cubans tried Thursday to deal with the most urgent, two days after the passage of Hurricane Ian which plunged the country into darkness.
“I’m trying to find a solution, I’m calling to find out who has electricity and could save me some of the chicken I have here (in the freezer) that is about to expire,” Maria Fernandez, a 68-year-old retiree tells AFP in her home in the Santos Suarez neighborhood of Havana.
The powerful Category 3 hurricane that hit the country on Tuesday left three people dead and caused extensive damage in the west. It also caused a blackout throughout the island of 11.2 million people.
Maria Fernandez uses her landline phone because the “cell phone is discharged and the signal is intermittent,” she says.
Lazaro Herrera, an official of the public electricity company, Union Electrica (UNE), said on state television that part of the capital already had power, but the “rest is still waiting for the certification of the lines, as well as the provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Rio (west),” the hardest hit by the hurricane.
A good part of the inhabitants of the eastern provinces of Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas and Camagüey, which were not affected, have also recovered electricity.
The Cuban electrical grid is powered by eight large power plants, electrical generators and some solar and wind units.
Dozens of people went down Thursday evening in the streets of the district of Cerro, in Havana, to protest against the absence of lighting, noted the AFP.
“We’ve had enough,” said Laura Mujica, a 20-year-old student. “They said this problem would be fixed on Monday,” she pointed to a downed power pole from Tuesday.
In a context of recurrent food shortages, Cubans are used to storing meat and perishable food in their freezers.
A prolonged power outage is a disaster. “I came to a friend’s house to put some food in her freezer,” says a relieved Adrian Noriega, a 30-year-old lawyer who lives in the La Vibora neighborhood.
After the devastating passage of Ian, Mexico, Venezuela and Bolivia expressed their solidarity with Cuba. The US Embassy in Havana recalled that “US law authorizes US agencies and entities to provide disaster relief in Cuba”.
On the outskirts of the capital, employees of hospitals and other buildings with electric generators charge up to 200 Cuban pesos ($1) to recharge their phones.
Public transport in the capital was expected to resume on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Transport, while “the country’s airports are operational again” for international flights.
The chimneys of the Turkish boat-generator, rented by the electricity company and anchored in the bay of Havana, smoke again, noted the AFP.