A Nova Scotia couple are relieved that none of their immediate family were killed after Hurricane Irma ravaged Cuba, but they say parts of the island may never recover.
Nadia Mujica, her Cuban husband Fred and their two children live in the Annapolis Valley. They and Mujica's visiting in-laws watched the storm rampage through Cuba over the weekend on television.
"I can't explain it. It was like watching a movie," said Nadia Mujica. "It was hard because it was painful to watch my in-laws suffer and my husband — just the unknown was hurting them."
At least 35 people were reportedly killed across the Caribbean, including 10 in Cuba, where the northern coast was devastated by the storm. Cuban state news media said most of those died in Havana, where Irma pushed seawater deep into residential neighbourhoods. More than one million people were evacuated from flood-prone areas.
Tourist area, airport heavily damaged
Cuban state television reported severe damage to hotels on the northern keys off Ciego de Avila and Camaguey provinces. Fred Mujica's family is from Majagua, located on the mainland between popular tourists destinations Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria.
"Everybody lost everything. Everything that they possibly owned is gone," said Nadia Mujica.
The Communist Party newspaper Granma reported that the Jardines del Rey airport serving the northern Cuban keys including Cayo Coco was destroyed, and posted photos to Twitter showing the shattered terminal hall littered with debris.
Nadia Mujica's in-laws are supposed to go back to Cuba in November, but with the main airport destroyed and other infrastructure damaged, it might take a while.
"There's a feeling of helplessness at the moment," Nadia Mujica said. "For us, we are so fortunate to have Fred's parents with us and just to have our beautiful family together and to know that his grandparents and brothers are OK.
"But I know also it's just going to be that much more challenging where everyone has lost their jobs and their means of income. I can't imagine ever having to just start over."
Cuba no stranger to hurricanes
Nadia Mujica met her husband when she was 19 after she and her mother won a free trip to Cuba 11 years ago.
She said the only hurricane she has experienced was Hurricane Juan, which made landfall in Nova Scotia in September 2003.
Fred Mujica said he has lived through "many, many" hurricanes and gets his name from the 1979 hurricane during which he was born.
He said the first hurricane he remembers in Cuba was Hurricane Kate in 1985, which killed 10 people on the island. Fred Mujica said some people in Cuba have still not been able to rebuild after that storm.