Cuba on Saturday sought “allied” help to deal with a massive fire that struck an oil depot after being struck by lightning, in which 77 people were injured, three of them in critical condition and 17 firefighters are missing.
About 800 people were evacuated from the disaster area on the outskirts of Mantanzas, a city of 140,000 residents 100 kilometers east of Havana, where a huge plume of black smoke could be seen in the sky.
“Cuba has sought help and advice from friendly countries with experience in the oil sector,” The President said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said that “Cuban’s foreign policy is proactive in seeking aid from friendly countries.”
The US embassy in Havana said it was “in touch” with Cuban officials and clarified that “US law allows American entities and organizations to provide disaster relief and response to Cuba.”
The United States imposes a sanctions regime on one party in power on the communist island.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Twitter that it “may take time” to get the fire under control.
According to the official Granma newspaper, three of the injured are in critical condition, three are in very serious condition and 12 people are seriously injured. 17 missing “firefighters who were in the area closest to the fire” when an explosion occurred.
Helicopters were working to douse the fire on Saturday, in which water hoses were brought in with the help of cranes.
“the sky was yellow”
The fire broke out late Friday night when lightning struck a tank at the oil depot. By morning, the fire spread to another tank.
According to Grandma “The lightning rod was a failure of the system which could not withstand the power of the electrical discharge”.
Ginelva Hernandez, 33, said she, her husband and three children were asleep when they awoke from a violent explosion. “We threw ourselves out of bed. When we went out into the street, the sky was yellow”, he told AFP. this moment, “People’s fear was out of control”.
Laura Martinez, who lives near the disaster area, told AFP she had “The explosion felt like a shock wave”,
Hearing the first explosion, 32-year-old Yuni Hernandez and her children fled their home, located two kilometers from the depot. They returned a few hours later and again in the early hours of the morning heard more explosions and the sound of “tank fragments falling”.
According to Asbel Leal, director of trade and supply at the Cuban Petroleum Union (CAPET), the first reservoir “This contains about 26,000 cubic meters of domestic crude, or about 50% of its maximum capacity” at the time of disaster. The second tank contained 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil.
According to him, Cuba had never faced the fires of “the horrors of today”.
Granma said the deposit supplies the largest Antonio Guitaras power plant in Cuba, but has not stopped pumping the plant.
The fire comes as the island has been facing supply difficulties since May to meet rising electricity demand due to the heat.
Authorities must cut down to 12 hours a day in some areas of the country, fueling the anger of furious residents who have organized about twenty demonstrations.
The obsolescence, maintenance work and fuel shortages at the island’s eight thermoelectric power stations are hampering electricity generation.
Cuba currently has an average power distribution capacity of 2,500 MW, which is insufficient for peak-hour domestic demand, which according to officials reaches 2,900 MW.
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