Couple who survived Hurricane Irma set to return to Cuba
A couple who survived Hurricane Irma while on holiday in Cuba - are going back next year.
Stephen and Jayne Kennedy, from Horden, won't let this year's disaster put them off and have booked up to go back at the same time next year.
The pair, who had to barricade themselves into a bathroom overnight while the storm raged outside their hotel complex, are determined to have the anniversary holiday they wanted.
Stephen and Jayne, who are both civil servants, booked the holiday of a lifetime to Cuba more than a year ago, to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary.
The couple arrived in Cayo Guillermo at the beginning of September and were enjoying their idyllic break when news of Hurricane Irma, which travelled across the Caribbean leaving devastation in its wake, could be heading to them came through.
Stephen, 36, formerly from Hartlepool, said: "Our hotel was on a small island off the coast and they said we couldn't stay there."
Eventually, they were evacuated and taken on an eight-hour journey to Cuba's Varadero.
A couple of days later they were told to stay in their rooms until the storm had passed.
Stephen said: "We just watched it build up and build up and the storm was getting stronger and stronger. The television went off and then the power.
"The wind changed and we could see the palm trees and things flying towards us. We thought the glass was going to break, so we closed the curtains and moved the furniture in front of the windows.
"About midnight the ceiling came in and we grabbed our duvet and, using our phone as a torch, barricaded ourselves in the bathroom.
"It was frightening, but it was surreal as well. The next day the storm had passed and by the following day we were back on the beach sunbathing."
Stephen said he and Jayne, 48, wanted to stay for the remaining three days of their holiday, but were flown back by Thomas Cook and given a full refund.
The couple said they were amazed by the resilience of the Cuban people and how quickly they started to get things back to normal.
He said: "Even after all that had gone on, the Cubans still managed a make shift breakfast for everyone.
"Their attitude was amazing. They even held a party that night to celebrate everyone surviving."
Stephen said: "People might think we are mad, but we are going back next September and hopefully have the holiday we were supposed to have."
He said there hadn't been a hurricane like this since 1932, so they are happy to take the risk that it won't happen again to them.
Stephen said: "In hindsight we are glad we experienced it, there's not many people can say they have been through a hurricane, but at the time it was frightening and we didn't know if we were going to be alright."