Cubans suffer from power outages caused by Hurricane Ian


Last week, Ivette Garrido rushed to retrieve 13 pounds of subsidized chicken given to her family by the Cuban government and put it in the freezer, happy to have passable meat. Hurricane Ian.

Now she’s considering giving the chicken to her three dogs before it spoils huge power outage caused by storm it lasts more than two days and everything in her freezer melts amid scorching temperatures.

The government did not say what percentage of the population remains without electricity, but electricity authorities said only 10% of Havana’s 2 million residents had electricity on Thursday.

“We’re not doing very well, we’re trying to survive, to keep things from thawing,” said Garrido, who lives with her mother and 19-year-old daughter in the city of Cojimar on the outskirts of Havana.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans face similar situations.

Small protests appeared in Havana on Thursday night with people demanding electricity restoration.

An Associated Press reporter saw a total of about 400 people gather in at least two locations in the Cerro neighborhood, shouting “We want light, we want light” and banging pots and pans.

Ian crossed western Cuba on Tuesday before heading north to Florida. It initially knocked out power to several provinces, but problems mounted and soon the nationwide power grid collapsed, affecting 11 million people, the first total blackout in living memory.

Cuban Electric Company workers repair power lines after Hurricane Ian in El Cerro, Cuba on September 29, 2022.

YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

The storm also claimed three lives and caused as yet unquantified damage.

Electricity returned to some parts of Cuba on Wednesday, while it went on and off again in other parts. Experts said the total blackout showed the vulnerability of Cuba’s power grid.

The authorities have promised to work tirelessly to solve the problem.

Half a dozen Havana residents interviewed by The Associated Press on Thursday were tense about the power shortage, which has also left them without water because the pumps that bring water to their taps are powered by electric motors. Many households cannot cook because they use electric stoves following a campaign by the authorities to eliminate artisanal stoves.

“We’ve never been without power this long,” Garrido said. “They put it for 24 hours, for 36, but it’s already more than 48. It’s criminal. Who is responsible for this?”

She placed the frozen water bottles that were in the freezer next to the chicken along with some pork and sausages to try to preserve the meat longer. A fan and television are also waiting for the electricity to return.

AP calls to a dozen people in Cuba’s main cities — Holguín, Guantánamo, Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey and Santiago — found similar problems to Havana, with most reporting their neighborhoods were still without power.

Cubans line up to buy bread in Havana on September 29, 2022, following the passage of Hurricane Ian.


Authorities say the total power outage was caused by the failure of connections between Cuba’s three regions – west, center and east – caused by Ian’s winds.

The Cuban grid “was already in a critical and immunocompromised state due to the deterioration of the thermal power plants. The patient is now on life support,” said Jorge Piñon, director of the Latin American Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy. and the Caribbean Program of Latin America and the Caribbean at the University of Texas.

Being connected “is the perfect analogy of a domino effect, where you knock down a domino and it hits all the others in a chain reaction,” he said.

Cuba is suffering from an economic crisis caused by a combination of US sanctions, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and inefficiencies. The island’s GDP fell by 11% in 2020 and grew by 1.3% in 2021. Cubans already lived with scheduled power outages.

Cuba has 13 power plants, eight of which are traditional thermal power plants, and five floating power plants leased from Turkey as of 2019. There are also a cluster of small power plants spread across the country since the 2006 energy reform.

But the plants are poorly maintained, a phenomenon the government attributes to a lack of funding and US sanctions. Complications in obtaining fuel are also a problem.

“Unfortunately, it will be a long recovery process that will also have to cover the production deficit that already existed before the hurricane, all at a high economic cost that the country cannot afford,” Piñon said.



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