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Cuba is still working to get to its power back up after Hurricane Ian knocked it out

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

As Hurricane Ian rips northward over Florida, it has already left a trail of havoc behind in Cuba. Two people were killed, and most of the island is still without power. There are only sporadic reports of energy coming back briefly in some areas. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hurricane Ian hit western Cuba as a Category 3 storm, and this is something Cuba did not need. The island is in the middle of the worst economic crisis in decades. And even before Ian, Cubans were weathering shortages in essentials. They've been making long lines, hoping to buy some food, fuel or medicine. This month, a fire destroyed a huge fuel depot that has led to rolling blackouts. And now Ian delivers another devastating punch. For a moment, its winds knocked out power to the entire island. Speaking to Eurovision, one resident in hard-hit Pinar del Rio said this is an even more difficult situation for tobacco farmers because on top of the bad economy, now their fields are flooded.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: Amid all of these crises, she says, she has no idea how they're going to face this.

The government says more than a thousand trees were toppled and that five structures completely caved. Another 68 were partially destroyed. Sixteen thousand people, the government said, were rescued. President Miguel Diaz-Canel toured the damage on Tuesday. State TV showed Cubans lined along the streets crying. The president taps one man on the shoulder.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT MIGUEL DIAZ-CANEL: (Speaking Spanish)

PERALTA: "This is difficult," he says. "But let's put on a brave face, and we'll come out of this."

According to officials, as the hurricane moved onshore, power was cut to western Cuba, which caused an imbalance to an already delicate electrical grid. Officials say a massive fault brought down all the power-generating stations in the country. This morning, some stations were restored, but officials say this is a complex task. So it's unclear how long it will take for all the power to be restored.

Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.