A NEWLY-ENGAGED couple were living out their dream holiday in Cuba when their resort was devastated by a hurricane.
Paul Horn was celebrating his engagement to fiancee Lorelle, who he asked to marry him on the holiday, when the deadly Hurricane Irma cut across the Caribbean island.
The Napton couple were staying in Rio de Oro – around 500 miles from the capital of Havana, where more than 5,000 tourists were evacuated.
Fortunately Paul – who is a service manager of garage T&H Motors in Leamington – and his fiancee remained safe during a 24-hour lock-down as high speed winds tore through the resort.
The dad-of-one described how trees were uprooted, the building’s roof ripped off and furniture flew around the hotel before shattering as it hit the walls.
He said: “The destruction of the resort alone was immense, the restaurant no longer had a roof and was waterlogged, and the boat shed on the shore was long gone.”
The 44 year-old revealed his teenage daughter was left panicked as the hurricane, which hit headlines around the world, cut his phone and internet off and left her unable to contact him.
He said: “My phone was full of messages from family and friends. There was no signal and the internet there wasn’t great anyway. The news had panicked everyone back home, but we didn’t really know much about it at all before it hit.”
He said representatives from travel provider Thomas Cooke prepared him and his partner for the deadly storm, warning visitors to stay in their rooms and to move to the bathroom where the walls were thicker, should they feel unsafe.
Paul praised staff for their calmness as the resort felt the devastating backlash of Hurricane Irma, with workers even delivering food to the rooms as the raging storm hit.
He said, “They were incredible. They were putting their lives at risk to make sure we were safe and happy.”
And the next morning the couple – among with an army of grateful guests – rolled up their sleeves to help begin the mammoth clean-up operation.
He said, “It was amazing. We were like a human chain, it was really good to see everyone coming together to rebuild a community.
“The staff were in full uniform, there were receptionists, chefs, waiters and their family members all ready to muck in and plough on.”
Before the couple departed, they donated clothes and unused toiletries to be distributed among the staff and other nearby residents whose homes and lives had been torn apart in a matter of hours.
Irma made landfall in Cuba overnight on Friday as a category five storm – the highest level – blasting through coastal towns and causing flooding in low-lying areas of Havana and killing ten people.
Before slamming into the Cuba, Irma raged across other resort islands including St Martin, St Barts, St Thomas, Anguilla and Barbuda, which now stands completely desolate.
The Prime Minister has since announced a £32million fund relief and the government said it would double any donations made to The Red Cross appeal for the victims of the hurricane.
Visit www.redcross.org.uk/HurricaneIrma to support the appeal.