The country is facing the worst fire in its history after lightning struck one of the tanks at the oil depot. Cuba calls on its “friendly countries” to deal with the disaster.
Havana is on fire after a lightning strike. Since Friday, August 5, Cuban firefighters have been trying to put out the fire at the Matanzas oil depot in Cuba. In the early morning, the fire then spread to a second tank. These explosions left one dead, 120 injured and 17 firefighters still missing.
This oil depot supplies the largest power plant in the country. A source of concern for Cubans, often victims of power cuts to spare aging power plants, writes France Info. Some 1,900 people were evacuated from the disaster area, located in the suburb 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 .
International aid as reinforcement
Faced with the difficult control of the fire which “could take time”, according to President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba “requested the help and advice of friendly countries with experience in the oil sector”. Responses were swift and the President tweeted his “deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, who promptly offered material assistance through solidarity in the face of 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 US Embassy in Havana had earlier said it was “in touch” with Cuban officials, saying that despite the ongoing sanctions regime against the ruling single party, “US law allows entities and U.S. organizations to provide relief and disaster response in Cuba.”
“The sky was yellow”
Local media: Third tank explodes at Matanzas, Cuba, oil facility, as firefighting efforts enter third day; more than 100 people hurt in Saturday explosion pic.twitter.com/hHOr5XnBzK
— Factal News (@factal) August 8, 2022
Helicopters were hard at work battling the blaze on Saturday, with water hoses brought in using cranes.
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 went out into the street, the sky was yellow,” she said. At that time, “people’s fear was out of control”. Laura Martinez, a resident near the disaster area, said she “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 and then heard more explosions in the early hours of the morning and sounds “like pieces of the tank falling”.