Caracas, August 6, 2022 (OrinocoTribune.com)—At least one person has died, 17 firefighters are missing, and 121 people have been injured in a huge fire that broke out on Friday, August 5, in a fuel depot in Matanzas, in western Cuba, 60 miles east of Havana.
The fire started on Friday evening after a lighting hit a fuel tank in Matanzas, and then in the early hours of Saturday it spread to a second tank, causing a big explosion around 5:00 A.M. while government officials and firefighter teams were trying to control the first explosion. All throughout Saturday Cuban authorities worked tirelessly to prevent the fire from reaching a third tank. The storage facility consists of eight storage tanks overall.
The governments of Mexico and Venezuela have already sent expert teams to help the Cubans in the midst of the catastrophe that has shaken the island nation subjected to more than 60 years of an illegal US blockade. The total economic, financial and trade blockade against Cuba has recently created an energy crisis there, affecting electricity generation, among other criminal consequences. The storage facility under fire is an important hub for distribution of fuel to different thermoelectrical plants in the country.
The Cuban News Agency (ACN) reported that the impacted container was at 50% of its capacity of 300,000 barrels and that the lightning arrestor it had could not protect the tank as the discharge was of extremely high power.
Cuban authorities have reported that at least 121 people were injured in the blast, of whom 36 remained hospitalized, five in critical condition. One person was announced dead, and 17 firefighters are still missing. More than 1,000 civilians were evacuated from the area.
ACN had reported a few hours earlier that there were 67 injured: three in very critical state, three in critical state, 12 in delicate state, 20 in less critical state and 29 with light injures. The injured are being treated at the Faustino Pérez Provincial Hospital. It has been warned that the death toll may rise.
Ministro de Salud Pública @japortalmiranda, actualiza que ascienden a 67 los pacientes lesionados atendidos.
3 muy graves
20 menos graves
Asegura que están disponible bolsas de sueros y todas las cremas para la atención a los quemados. pic.twitter.com/LqJRcN1p0U
— Presidencia Cuba 🇨🇺 (@PresidenciaCuba) August 6, 2022
The Presidency of Cuba announced that the 17 disappeared are firefighters who were in the area closest to the fire trying to control the first explosion. As a precautionary measure, around 1,000 people have been evacuated, reported the Governor of Matanzas Mario Sabines Lorenzo.
The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel instructed the relevant authorities to continue the search for the disappeared and to provide proper care to their relatives.
“We have requested help and advice from friendly countries with experiences in fuel issues. Strategies for recovery are already being outlined,” President Díaz-Canel said.
The Cuban president stated in a tweet, “We express deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, which have promptly offered solidarity and material aid in the face of this complex situation. Cuba also appreciates the offer of technical advice from the United States.”
Cuba expresses deep gratitude to the govts of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina & Chile, which have promptly offered solidarity & material aid in the face of this complex situation. Cuba also appreciates the offer of technical advice from the US.
— Manolo De Los Santos (@manolo_realengo) August 6, 2022
Díaz-Canel visited the scene around Friday midnight and held meetings with officials in charge of the emergency response operation. He also met the injured and their relatives in the hospital where treatment is being carried out. Later he returned to Havana and spent the entire Saturday coordinating the emergency response, as state-run television broadcast live coverage of the unfolding disaster.
Before the second explosion, the Cuban president had posted on Twitter that first responders were “trying to avert the spread of the flames and any spill of fuel” into the Matanzas Bay. Military helicopters were spraying seawater on the nearby storage tanks as smoke reached Havana and residents were warned to stay indoors to avoid acid rain.
Meanwhile social media networks again became the stage for fake news and media warfare, typically surrounding countries under US attack, distorting casualty figures, scale and consequences of the catastrophic incident. The fire in Cuba seems very similar to the Tacoa Fire that occurred in La Guaira, Venezuela, in 1982, in which 53 firefighters and 14 electricity company workers died. The total human toll of that fire was 150 dead and 300 injured.
— Cubadebate (@cubadebatecu) August 6, 2022
Cuban authorities are engaged in a total and comprehensive emergency response involving the highest authorities in the government, as well as the military and the Cuban society as a whole, along with updated reports on casualties. A strategy has also been employed to neutralize the smear campaigns that are coming from Florida, USA, as usual.
Special for Orinoco Tribune by staff
Translation: Orinoco Tribune