Huge waves spill over the famous Malecon esplanade in Havana as Hurricane Ian batters the island nation
Huge waves spill over the famous Malecon esplanade in Havana as Hurricane Ian batters the island nation

Authorities were slowly restoring electricity in Cuba on Wednesday following an 18-hour power outage in the country caused by Hurricane Ian, which killed two people and left widespread damage.

Western Cuba was battered Tuesday by the fierce tropical storm that left the country's power network damaged and its 11.2-million population in the dark.

"Work is underway in all of the affected municipalities in the western provinces. A detailed study is being carried out to determine and quantify the damage to begin the process of restoring the system," said the state electricity company Union Electrica, the only authorized power supplier in the communist nation.

Union Electrica said that shortly after 5:00 pm on Tuesday, two high-voltage lines triggered protection systems after cables were broken by the fierce winds.

"This situation provoked a power imbalance due to the excess generation in the western area and the lack of generation in the central-eastern zone," leading to "a total outage."

By midday on Wednesday, the progressive restarting of eight central thermoelectric plants and generators had begun.

"It's back!" shouted residents in Havana's old town as they ran to check on the food inside their refrigerators.

Power was restored for some residents in Havana and another 11 provinces, but not in the three worst-affected provinces in western Cuba.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited Pinar del Rio, one of the hardest-hit provinces, on Wednesday to view the damage.

The state electricity company had said late Tuesday that the entire country was "without electrical service."

Cubans have had to get used to increasingly frequent power cuts since May, but not on a nationwide scale.

Much of the country's power infrastructure is obsolete and poorly maintained.

"The electricity went out yesterday at 6:00 pm and we don't know when it will be back on," farmer Alejandro Perez, 35, told AFP by telephone from the eastern town of Santiago de Cuba earlier on Wednesday.

By contrast, on Isla de la Juventud island, which was the first part of the country struck by Ian, "we have had electricity since 5:00 pm yesterday," Roxana Gonzalez, 75, told AFP.

Given the island lies 340 kilometers (210 miles) south of Havana, it has its own separate electricity grid.

Ian caused five buildings in the capital to collapse, while another 68 were partially damaged, authorities said.

Many roads in Havana were left flooded by the passage of Hurricane Ian
Many roads in Havana were left flooded by the passage of Hurricane Ian