- BBC News World
After lightning struck a fuel storage tank near the city of Matanzas on Friday night, a fire broke out that spread to a second tank on Saturday.
Authorities are trying to put out the fire that has left 17 firefighters missing and at least 67 injured, three of whom are in critical condition.
Nearly 800 residents have been evacuated from the western part of Cuba, Reuters reported, citing Cuban state television.
The Provincial Government of People’s Power in Matanza, which is 130 km from Havana, reported through its Twitter account that there have been several explosions.
“There is no certain information about the magnitude of the incident, but it will undoubtedly be one of the saddest accidents“.
The crude deposits have a capacity of 50,000 cubic meters. They are located at the Supertanker Base in an industrial area of Matanzas, near the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, one of the largest in Cuba, the EFE news agency reported.
The fire started this Friday around 7:00 p.m. local time (23:00 GMT) when the electrical discharge fell on one of the tanks. The strong wind made the extinction work difficult and carried the flames to a second deposit that exploded at 07:00 local time on Saturday (11:00 GMT).
So far the fire has not been controlled.
The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, expressed in the early hours of Saturday, on his Twitter account, that “no exist background of a fire of such magnitude at the Super Tanker Base” and called on other countries to help the island to put out the fire.
The president and other members of the government visited the wounded at the Faustino Pérez de Matanzas provincial hospital.
“Most of the injuries are burns to the lower limbs, necks of firefighters, workers from different areas and troops who worked to put out the fire, especially,” the Granma website said.
Support from other countries
Using the hashtag #FuerzaMatanzas, President Díaz-Canel tweeted on Saturday afternoon in gratitude to the nations that heeded his call for help.
“We express deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, which have promptly offered solidary material aid in the face of this complex situation. We also appreciate the offer of technical advice by the United States,” the president wrote.
Cuba’s deputy foreign minister, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, wrote on Twitter that the US government “offered technical advice, already placed in the hands of specialists for proper coordination.”
“We deeply appreciate the condolences and expressions of help from various organizations and people from the US due to the incident in Matanzas,” said the Vice Chancellor.
The US embassy. in Havana, explained with two tweets in Spanish and English, that their country can help the Caribbean nation.
“We are in contact with #Cuba about the Matanzas incident. In the meantime, we want to make it clear that US law authorizes US entities and organizations to provide disaster relief and response in Cuba.”
For their part, Cuban and Mexican media reported this Saturday that the state company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) will also support the Cuban government in the operations to control the fire.
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