The onslaught of Hurricane Ian devastated everything in its path, the witnesses this time were the inhabitants of the westernmost Cuban province, Pinar del Río, and Ian was determined to leave his mark, and to test the solidarity that characterizes Cubans.
On September 30, the Vicente García contingent of the territory's Electric Company left for the western part of the country. This group of brave men was able, in about 50 days, to reestablish 208.2 kilometers of electric networks, and 349 secondary circuits with their respective transformer banks, and to change more than 234 poles, managing to reestablish service to more than 10,604 consumers.
All these feats were carried out in Sumidero, Pons, Cabeza, Pica Pica, Caliente, Las Vírgenes, and La Güira, just to mention some of the communities where they were working during this period.
Carlos Rafael Arias Sobrino, the Electric Company director in Las Tunas, was the leader of these men from the land of the Lion of Santa Rita, who took as one of their first objectives to return well all, and this premise since they not only worked in Pinar del Río but also the recovery of circuits in the municipalities of Cerro and Revolution Square in the capital of the country.
Burned by the sun, but with great satisfaction, Arias Sobrino explains: "There we were exposed to long working days, lines that were very affected, worn out, in places with geography very different from ours, because it is a mountainous area which makes the risks greater.
Also added to all this is the desire to recover the networks as soon as possible, they are a set of issues that make the dangers greater and force us to take all measures.
"This was an atypical hurricane, it passed through the country in a difficult economic context, both for those of us who were involved in the recovery activities and for the families. This undoubtedly reflected in each of the functions we performed, both in the business and family areas, and made the actions we had to face a little more complex. Each one of us will make our own story in our own family, but from my position, I can assure you that everything we saw when we arrived at these places was very hard."
In emotions and with the satisfaction of being all at home, he recalls that the simple fact of having returned all alive and in good health is already a victory, because there, in the line of duty, sadly three colleagues lost their lives.
"And although some of the colleagues lost family members and came, they felt the need to return with the troops, in the same way, we value those who, even though they were sick, did not lose heart and got out of bed to support them. It is essential to remember that none of them, not even with their sick children here, ever asked to return, they always demanded to finish the task and give light and life to those people who needed it so much," he added.
Everyone was involved in this journey, the drivers, the linemen who are fundamental keys in this task, the managers present, the engineers, and the technicians, we refer to this as rescue work, because their stories tell what they saw and lived there.
SOME NAMES FOR THIS STORY
At the age of 40 years old, this is the third time Yosbel Mildestein Romero is away from his family. He is an engineer and the main specialist of the energy group of the Electricity Company in Las Tunas, and although his first experience was in the municipality of Baracoa and the second in Ciego de Ávila, he considers that this time Pinar del Río will mark him forever.
"We have already accumulated experience in all this, that's why every time I go to any of these recovery tasks I take my tools ready, the tables for the daily control of consumption, the tickets for registration and to be able to report accurately to the office the amount of fuel consumed, the attendance of each car..."
His function at the "Vicente García" was to keep control of the energy carriers, in this case, the fuel consumption, ensuring that each of the equipment - the cranes, the cars - had what it needed without wasting it. He had to keep track of the magnetic cards and check the correct filling out of the road maps of this equipment to then analyze the operation according to the consumption index with which he was working.
Something happens here," explains Yosbel, "and that is that when we were in mountainous terrain, the consumption index was modified for our province, which is located in flat terrain. Already with the analysis of these behaviors, it was determined within the permissible ranges, which was five percent for the deviation of the consumption index."
For him, this work was a challenge, because, in addition to the hours of work, there were hours of travel from one place to another. "We were sent to the territory of Santa Lucia, to get there we had to make a somewhat extensive journey in which we crossed Viñales, Minas de Matahambre, and then we found this town.
"Already in the place we were placed in different locations, which allowed us to cover a large number of sites and we even got to be closer to the head municipality. When we arrived, we found a sad scene, the poles in the middle of the road, the power lines crossed from one street to another and were very deteriorated. You could see the damage after the hurricane, there were even broken poles and we had to replace all of those ourselves."
It was not easy to see that place, and the people, he assures as someone who lived that experience and feels the support of the other contingents that were also "reliving" the place.
An important fact added by the engineer is that the fuel used in the recoveries was the same that was planned for the province. That is to say, the Electric Union in Havana was allocated according to the plan for the province, and since the same cars were there, the fuel was divided for the vehicles that worked in this eastern land and for those that were part of the contingent on Pinar del Río soil.
"Knowing how to distribute it was not so complex because everything was given by the amount of work, here the electrical guard was guaranteed in the province, and there the recovery of the electrical system was guaranteed. This also depended on the availability that the country had.”
"The greatest complexity in this sense was when it was time to load the cards, since there was no current in Minas and communications were very bad, there was no system and we had to travel 70 kilometers to Pinar del Río itself, to ensure that the cars had the fuel. We could not stop for anything; a stopped car meant an enormous delay.”
Evangelio Espinosa Hechavarría, a lineman in the brigade who also served as a driver, is aware of what you have to do when the nation needs you.
"We made many sacrifices, but at all times we stuck together and always supported each other. We convinced ourselves that we were there to solve a problem for this sister province and we were looking for ways to give it light.
"We fulfilled our task, which was the most important thing, and every minute we carried our commander in our hearts, because he was who taught us to be in solidarity, and the first to call us for a mission of this kind."
Evelio was one of the many men recognized by the company, and his greatest pride was to receive the recognition from his daughter, she is one of the motivations he had. As a father, he feels the need to show strength, but there are moments when his heart softens.
"Always before leaving, there is a conversation with the family -this is already the seventh time- and they understand that it is an imminent need. We have to convince them that we are going to take care of ourselves because in these situations the first thing is to preserve the man's life, and even more so for us, who work directly with fallen cables through which sometimes current still passes. But none of this matters when we know that we are going to return with the satisfaction of a duty fulfilled."
"I felt good there," says Julio Berdut Tamayo, a specialized lineman, who works in commercial services in the province, "although I had to leave my family alone in the middle of a critical situation, we had to step forward, we were needed in that territory and we had to support each other as a family.
"We worked in places of difficult access to which we had to enter through corridors, we reached schools, we stopped many poles by hand, sometimes the villagers asked us if we were cranes or robots, to this we must add that the terrain did not accompany us."
The rain also did its part and kept them a little away from the expected triumph, it was about 50 days of hard work, a few hours of sleep, and the only goal of restoring the energy system; but it is these difficulties that made them strong.
"We will call Ian the hurricane of sacrifice, said the leader of the contingent, the compassion, the commitment, and the will of all the contingents, but the one from Las Tunas, above all, spread love and fulfilled his responsibility.”