One person has been killed, 17 people are missing, at least 122 have been injured and hundreds have been evacuated after a lightning strike caused a massive fire at a Cuban oil storage facility in the city of Matanzas.
During a thunderstorm on Friday, lightning struck a tank at the facility, causing it to catch fire and catch fire to another nearby tank.
“The morning was, once again, difficult,” the Cuban presidency tweeted in a statement on Sunday. “Firefighters continue to battle the intense fire as help arrives from friendly countries. Today will be a pivotal day in our fight for life.”
The containers contained, between them, 26,000 cubic meters of oil and 50,000 cubic meters of fuel oil, according to the provincial government. A huge column of smoke and fire has been burning over the facility for days.
Officials say they recovered the remains of Juan Carlos Santana Garrido, a firefighter, at the Matanzas Supertanker Base on Saturday.
“We regret this loss for his family and friends and send our deepest condolences,” the Cuban Ministry of Public Health she wrote on her website.
On Sunday, Cuban President Miguel Días-Canel Bermúdez met with those injured in the fire, as well as the families of the missing.
Teams of firefighters from Mexico and Venezuela are on the ground in Cuba helping to put out the blaze.
“Welcome to our Mexican brothers,” the president tweeted on Sunday. “We are counting on your expertise and solidarity to continue to fight the fire at Matanzas Supertanker Base. Thank you [Mexican] President Lopez Obrador for his immediate response to our emergency.”
Military helicopters have dropped water on the facility and officials hope to keep the remaining intact fuel tanks cool to prevent the situation from escalating further.
About 800 people were evacuated from the nearby neighborhood of Dubrocq.
“I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and terrible fire rose into the heavens,” resident Adiel Gonzalez told The Associated Press on Saturday. “The city has a strong sulfur smell.”
The operation of the nearby 225 MW Antonio Guiteras power plant, one of the largest in the country, is not currently threatened, according to in the state-run Prensa Latina.
State Prensa Latina reported that the fire it did not pose an immediate threat to the operation of the nearby 225 MW Antonio Guiteras power plant, one of the largest in the country.
Several nations have offered their support in fighting the fire, including Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile and, most notably, the US, which has kept trade with the island under embargo for the past six decades.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Fernández de Cossío thanked the US government on Saturday for the “technical assistance” offer.