A British family stranded in Cuba has described how they thought they were going to die after they were trapped in a hotel bathroom for more than 22 hours as Hurricane Irma battered the island.
Gemma Smith, with her husband Marc and son Kaiellis, were evacuated from their hotel on Thursday, and travelled nine hours by coach to the northern region of Varadero.
Gemma’s mother, Sharon Green, could not make contact with her family after the storm hit, but has now been able to communicate with them through Facebook.
Gemma Smith (pictured centre with husband Marc (right) and son Kaiellis (left) described her horror after being trapped inside a hotel bathroom for 23 hours while Irma hit
Destruction: Deadly category 4 Hurricane Irma has caused devastation across Cuba. A picture taken near the Smiths’ hotel in Varadero shows uprooted palm trees
Mrs Smith feared her and her family would die as the hurricane – which brought winds of up to 130mph – raged around their hotel, leaving destruction in its wake (pictured)
Mrs Smith, from Hull, said in a message to her mother: ‘We are safe. Those were the worst and scariest 24 hours of my life.
‘We were stuck in a bathroom for 22 hours and 43 minutes and trust me I counted every minute. All three of us laid in the bathroom and Kaiellis slept in the bath.
‘Hours into the hurricane everything smashed. All the glass and windows went and then, to our horror, the roof started leaking and rain was pouring in.
‘We shoved towels under the door and locked ourselves in with a mattress, but Kaiellis kept telling me things about rugby and laughing and joking with us.
‘It’s every parent’s worst nightmare the feeling that you can’t protect your child, and at times it was like he was looking out for me.
‘I’m not going lie, I thought we were all going to die. Further into the storm we heard a massive noise and realised the roof had come off, and people were crying – the noise was horrendous.
Cuba has been left devastated after Hurricane Irma tore through the country leaving a path of destruction in its wake. Havanah (pictured) has been left flooded by the hurricane
Deadly Hurricane Irma battered central Cuba (left) on Saturday, knocking down power lines, uprooting trees and ripping the roofs off homes as it headed towards Florida
Cubans were forced to wade through a flooded street near the Malecon in Havana (pictured) after Hurricane Irma devastated the country
‘Trees fell down and were landing on the hotel. I feel physically ill and mentally drained.’
Mrs Smith said the whole are of Varadero was flooded, with trees and tiles strewn everywhere. Their original hotel is apparently ‘completely under water’.
However, it was her 13-year-old son that kept her going.
‘Everyone is proud of their kids but Kaiellis is another level,’ she said.
‘Not once did he moan or complain but remained the funny character he is.
I’ve been shocked all holiday by him I never even knew he could speak Spanish.
Much of the country has been battered by the category 4 hurricane. This street, in Villa Clara, was badly affected with power lines brought down by the storm
Strong winds and driving rain wreaked havoc across Cuba. Many parts of Havana (pictured) were left submerged under water
‘He was helping people in Spanish through the power cuts and was making sure all the little kids were all okay. Words can’t describe how proud we both are of him.’
A Thomas Cook spokesman said they are planning to operate three flights back from Varadero on Monday, with two flights into Manchester and one into Gatwick – but only if the airport is open.
Another British couple have been left stranded in Cuba as Irma continues to wreak destruction on its way north to Florida.
Carrie Featherstone, her husband Dan and their three children travelled to the paradise island for the couple to renew their vows after 10 years together.
But it quickly turned to disaster when they were forced to evacuate Cayo Coco.
After a 6-hour drive to Varadero, they were put up in a hotel on the second floor, but the weather was so severe their hallway flooded.
British couple Dan and Carrie Featherstone (pictured) have been left stranded in Cuba as Irma continues to wreak destruction on its way north to Florida
The have now been forced to lock themselves in their hotel room and have used sofas and tables to barricade the doors.
Posting on Facebook Wednesday, she said: ‘Hurricane on its way, worst since 1980, Thomas Cook won’t send in flights.
‘Not allowed home now until next Monday. Waves expected to reach 25 feet and we are in the building on the beach.
Thomas Cook’s advice is to put our passports and visas into a clear sealed bag, leave our cases and hide in a safe place.
‘All other holiday companies sent in flights to take people home.
Mrs Featherstone (pictured) has been left trapped after she travelled to the US to renew her wedding vows
‘Never will I book through them again. Everyone here is is in tears of panic.’
The family of five were then sent six hours away to a hotel further from the storm and two days later, she said: ‘Now this hotel has gone into lockdown and boarded all windows and doors.
‘Been told to stay in our rooms all day tomorrow in the bathroom and stock up on food.
Well, we would if the hotel hadn’t closed all its supply until Monday – it’s going from bad to worse.
‘Currently watching our Thomas Cook rep drinking pints of beer.
‘I just want to be home and we can’t even pay for flights as they won’t let us book one.’
Yesterday she updated worried friends and family saying the hotel they had left in Cayo Coco was now completely under water and that the windows and doors were ‘going wild’ in their new temporary home.
In the early hours of this morning, things turned desperate for the family.
Mrs Featherstone said: ‘We have barricaded our doors with sofas, tables, chairs – you name it.
‘Next door to us has already been smashed through and the corridors on the second floor are flooded.
‘The noise is horrendous. It’s getting very scary now the roof is ripping off, metal poles are flying around and trees are coming down.
‘No food has been given to the majority of people.
Strong waves brought by Hurricane Irma hit the Malecon sea wall in Havana, Cuba (pictured)
‘Thomas Cook – you are a joke. You knew this was coming on Tuesday. You could have flown us home like other airlines have.’
A spokeswoman from the airline told MailOnline their staff were not permitted to drink alcohol while on duty and added: ‘The safety of our customers is our first priority.
‘We understand how distressing it is for them and their family and friends back home.
‘We worked with the authorities to keep everyone in hotels that are built to withstand a hurricane.
‘We flew out a special assistance team to provide extra support to our teams on the ground and are doing all we can to keep our everyone informed and bring them home as soon as possible.’