Some 1,900 people were evacuated from the disaster area on the outskirts of Mantanzas, a town of 140,000 people 100 kilometers east of Havana, from where the huge plume of black smoke obscuring the sky was visible.
A body was found at the crash sitesaid Luis Armando Wong, director of Health of Matanzas, during a press conference.
Five injured are in critical condition, three in very serious condition and 28 seriously injured, according to a latest report communicated on the presidency’s Twitter account.
Among the injured is Energy Minister Livan Arronte.
The 17 missing people are firefighters
who were in the area closest to the fire when an explosion took place.
The fire broke out on Friday evening when lightning struck one of the tanks at the oil depot. In the early morning, the fire then spread to a second tank.
Faced with the difficult control of the fire which
could take timeaccording to Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba
requested help and advice from friendly countries with experience in the oil sector.
The answers were not long in coming and the Cuban president expressed on Twitter his
deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, who promptly offered material assistance in solidarity with this complex situation.
We are also grateful for the offer of technical assistance from the United States, he added. Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio said the US proposal
is already in the hands of specialists for proper coordination.
The United States Embassy in Havana claimed to be
in touch with Cuban officials and clarified that
U.S. law authorizes U.S. entities and organizations to provide disaster relief and response in Cuba. The United States imposes a sanctions regime on the single ruling party on the communist island.
Helicopters were on the job battling the blaze on Saturday, with water hoses brought in by cranes.
Lightning rod system failure
The fire broke out late Friday evening when lightning struck one of the tanks at the oil depot. In the early morning, the fire then spread to a second tank.
there was a failure of the lightning rod system which could not withstand the power of the electric discharge.
Ginelva Hernandez, 33, said she, her husband and three children were sleeping when they were awakened by a violent explosion.
We threw ourselves out of bed. When we walked out on the street, the sky was yellow, she told AFP. At this moment,
people’s fear was out of control.
Laura Martinez, a resident near the disaster area, told AFP that she had
felt the explosion, like a shock wave.
Hearing a first explosion, Yuney Hernandez, 32, and her children fled their home located two kilometers from the depot. They returned a few hours later, then they heard more explosions in the early hours of the morning and noises
as if pieces of the tank are falling.
According to Asbel Leal, director of trade and supply at the Cuban Petroleum Union (Cupet), the first tank000cubic meters of domestic crude, or about 50% of its maximum capacity”,”text”:”contained approximately 26,000 cubic meters of domestic crude, or approximately 50% of its maximum capacity”}}”>contained approximately 26,000 cubic meters of domestic crude, or approximately 50% of its maximum capacity at the time of the disaster. The second tank contained 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil.
According to him, Cuba had never been confronted with a fire of
the scale of today’s.
The deposit supplies the Antonio Guiteras power plant, the largest in Cuba, but pumping to the plant has not stopped, said grandma.
This fire comes as the island has been facing supply difficulties since May to meet the increased demand for electricity due to the summer heat.
The authorities must carry out rotating cuts of up to 12 hours a day in certain regions of the country, triggering the anger of exasperated residents who have organized around twenty demonstrations.
The obsolescence of the island’s eight thermoelectric power stations, maintenance work and the lack of fuel are hampering electricity production.
Cuba currently has an average electricity distribution capacity of 2,500 megawatts, which is insufficient for peak-hour household demand, which reaches 2,900 megawatts, according to authorities.