Published: 12:00, 14 September 2017
A couple from Singleton who flew out to Cuba for a holiday had no idea they would be caught up in one of the biggest storms in history to hit the Caribbean.
Robyn Crawley, 23, and her boyfriend Danny Sawyer flew out to Cayo Coco in Cuba on August 27, and spent just over a week enjoying a relaxing holiday at the tropical resort.
However, that drastically changed after news a huge hurricane was making its way towards them.
Robyn said: “We were out on an excursion on Wednesday, September 6, and got back to our hotel about 3.30pm, so we just went to the pool.
“There had been talk all day of an evacuation and at 4.30pm another English family came and told us we were being evacuated to the mainland and that we were being picked up at 8pm.
“We all got up, packed, and there was a mad rush to get on coaches.
"We got evacuated 20 minutes down the road to another hotel where we were told we would spend one night and then in the morning be evacuated to Varadero.”
The following day the couple were then moved to a resort in Varadero, which is further inland to where they stayed originally, as the storm wasn’t expected to hit as hard.
She added: “It was absolutely awful being evacuated, there was a convoy of 15 coaches and all the locals were outside watching us leave.
“It was terrible to think that we were being evacuated to a lovely hotel and although they got evacuated as well it wouldn’t have been as nice.”
At the Varadero resort the couple were told to prepare for the hurricane to hit.
Guests and staff were told to stay inside due to the strong winds and later on were told to barricade their balcony doors in their room to give them more support.
Then on Saturday the hurricane hit.
Robyn continued: “It was amazing seeing it in action but then about 4pm it got worse and we weren’t allowed out of our rooms at all and the staff delivered food to us.
“Around 10pm it got really scary, that’s when we were close to the eye. All we could hear was banging and crashing coming off the roof.
“The windows in our hotel started to shake madly so we put a mattress in the bathroom and spent the night in there. It was awful.”
The couple’s room got flooded in the storm, with other rooms in the hotel suffering from smashed windows and collapsed ceilings, but the majority of people were okay.
In Cayo Coco, the hotel where the couple originally stayed was completely destroyed.
Now, Robyn and Danny are home after flying back on Monday evening, a day later than originally planned, but their thoughts are still with the people in Cuba.
Robyn said: “The Cuban people were absolutely amazing. I can’t express enough how amazing they were.
“The night after the hurricane the electricity was only half working and they got a man with a saxophone to play us some tunes.
"All the staff were dancing and it lifted everyone’s spirits so much.
“They went above and beyond to accommodate us when most of them lost their houses as they lived in wooden shacks and lost almost everything, when we’re coming home to houses.”
She added: “I have never met such lovely, thoughtful people and I couldn’t believe that they were so worried about us when they have been left with nothing.
“I just hope and pray all the lovely Cubans and their families are okay and managed to get out.”
Reaching up to a rare Category 5 at times, Hurricane Irma left a trail of death and destruction along its path.
Beginning early last week, the hurricane has devastated several Caribbean islands, including Barbuda, Antigua, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, St Martin’s and Cuba, before moving north to Florida in the United States.
With winds predicted to reach up to 215mph, and waves up to 23 feet, Hurricane Irma caused mass destruction through strong winds and flooding, destroyed buildings, cut off electricity and left thousands with nothing.
The total amount of damage the 'nuclear' hurricane has caused is currently unknown, however, it is believed that so far nearly 40 people have been killed, 1.2 million people have been affected, a number that is expected to rise to 26 million, and damage costs could hit $120 billion.
Hurricane Irma is still affecting parts of Florida but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. It was hoped it would weaken and fizzle out by the end of this week.
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