Cuba: One killed, 121 injured after lightning triggers massive fire
A major fire broke out in the Cuban city of Matanzas after lightning struck an oil storage facility. The fire caused explosions that injured 121 persons and left 17 firefighters missing. An unidentified body was also found at the spot, according to Cuban officials. Meanwhile, the work to extinguish the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, where it started on Friday, is still ongoing.
- The accident occurs as Cuba faces fuel shortages.
- Since May, authorities have enforced electricity outages of up to 12 hours per day in some places, provoking huge demonstrations across the 11-million-person country.
- Although there was no immediate word on the damage to the oil or the storage facility, the event did cause significant damage to electricity-generating units that use the fuel from the depot.
The officials told the Cuban News Agency that lightning hit one of the tanks which triggered a fire. Later, the blaze spread to a second tank and escalated the flames, resulting in explosions. The government pressed the military helicopters to service which flew overhead dropping water on the blaze. However, a dense column of black smoke billowed from the facility and spread toward Havana.
According to the Cuban Health Ministry, 121 persons were injured, with five of them in severe condition. The Presidency of the Republic said that 17 persons missing were "firefighters who were in the nearby region trying to prevent the spread. Later that day, the Ministry issued a statement saying that a body had been discovered and that officials were attempting to identify it.
According to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, firefighters were having difficulty putting out the fire at the fuel depot as the thunderstorm spread it to a huge area. Authorities reported roughly 800 people were evacuated from the Dubrocq area, which was closest to the fire. They claimed that it had requested assistance from overseas specialists in "friendly nations" with oil industry knowledge.
According to Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cosso, the US administration has offered technical assistance to put out the fire. "Plan is in the hands of professionals for proper coordination," he stated on Twitter. President Miguel Daz-Canel congratulated Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Chile for their offers of assistance minutes later. Meanwhile, a support flight from Mexico arrived on Saturday night.