HAVANA — Lightning struck a crude oil storage facility on the northern coast of Cuba, igniting a fireplace that on Saturday had left dozens of individuals injured, 17 firefighters lacking and prompted the evacuation of some 800 individuals, in line with the authorities.
Photographs of the fireplace on the Matanzas Supertanker Base, in Matanzas Province, 60 miles east of Havana, the capital, have been shared by the Cuban Power Ministry on social media and present monumental flames rising from the ability, with plumes of smoke blackening the sky.
Navy helicopters have been seen making an attempt to douse the inferno as dozens of firefighters rushed to the scene.
The fireplace started at one oil tank throughout a thunderstorm on Friday night, in line with state information media, and unfold to a second tank early on Saturday morning. That tank was estimated to carry some 52,000 cubic meters of gasoline oil, or over 13 million gallons.
As of Saturday afternoon, there have been no reported deaths however 77 individuals had been hospitalized, in line with Matanzas authorities officers. The 17 firefighters reportedly went lacking Saturday morning simply because the second tank exploded round 5 a.m.
Amongst these injured was the Cuban vitality minister, Liván Arronte Cruz, the president’s workplace stated on Twitter.
The bottom, which shops oil for vitality manufacturing, is close to considered one of Cuba’s main energy crops. Already, the Caribbean island struggles with widespread energy blackouts because of power gasoline shortages and an ailing infrastructure in dire want of upkeep.
Whereas the lights are largely stored on within the capital, within the Cuban provinces the place 9 million of the nation’s 11 million individuals reside, hourslong energy cuts have turn out to be a grueling a part of day by day life in current months. And diesel shortages have motorists ready in line for days.
“It’s a structural downside with Cuba’s electrical energy system, which has been working for over 40 years with no scheduled capital upkeep,” stated Jorge Piñon, an vitality knowledgeable on the College of Texas at Austin. “That places in danger a complete collapse of the system with no brief time period resolution.”
Cuba’s largest protests in many years have been prompted final yr partly by energy outages, in addition to an absence of meals and drugs within the nation, whose economic system has been onerous hit by each the pandemic and American sanctions. In Havana, the place smoke from the Matanzas hearth could possibly be seen on the horizon, residents frightened that the blaze might make an already tough state of affairs even worse.
“It seems actually horrible as a result of the nation goes by a gasoline disaster, an electrical energy disaster,” stated Amanda Hernández, 20, a college pupil. “The explosion goes to make the blackouts even worse.”
Like many residents, Ms. Hernández has needed to get used to common energy outages in current months, usually for hours at a time. With Dengue fever widespread within the capital, she worries that with out electrical energy she gained’t be capable of hold the disease-spreading mosquitoes at bay.
“We’ve ‘solidarity’ blackouts as they put it,” Ms. Hernández stated. “I’m afraid as a result of I’ve a child that wants air and air flow.”
President Miguel Díaz-Canel of Cuba visited the affected space on Saturday together with the nation’s prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, touring hospitals and assembly with the wounded.
“The daybreak might be lengthy and stuffed with anguish, because it was final evening,” Mr. Díaz-Canel stated on Twitter. “There isn’t any precedent for a fireplace of this magnitude on the Supertanker Base.”
Up to now, Cuba has shunned improvement support as a matter of nationwide pleasure. However for the reason that hearth, there have been calls from state media and authorities officers for worldwide help.
“I deeply recognize the messages of solidarity and choices at this tough time,” stated Overseas Minister Bruno Rodríguez on Twitter. “Our overseas coverage is activated to obtain the assistance of pleasant nations.”
Among the many nations lining as much as assist was america, with its embassy in Havana tweeting: “We wish to clarify that U.S. legislation authorizes U.S. entities and organizations to supply catastrophe reduction and response in Cuba.”