[IN IMAGES] Cuba: at least one dead in the gigantic fire of an oil depot

[IN PICTURES] Cuba: at least one dead in the gigantic fire of a d’ oil pôt


Cuba has received offers of assistance from many countries after it appealed for help in dealing with a huge fire at an oil depot struck by lightning which caused explosions in which at least one nobody was killed, 121 injured and 17 still missing. 

Cuba has received offers of assistance from many countries after it called for help in dealing with the massive fire of an oil depot struck by lightning which caused explosions in which at least one person was killed, 121 injured and 17 still missing.

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 .

“A body was found at the crash site,” said Luis Armando Wong, Director of Health of Matanzas, during a press conference.

Five injured are in critical condition, three in very serious condition and 28 seriously injured, according to a latest report released on the presidency's Twitter account.&nbsp ;

Among the injured is Energy Minister Livan Arronte.

The 17 missing are firefighters 'who were in the area closest to the fire' when an explosion took place . 

The fire started on Friday evening when lightning struck one of the tanks at the oil depot. In the early morning, the fire then spread to a second tank.

Faced with the difficult control of the fire which “could take time”, according to Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba “requested the help and advice of friendly countries with experience in the oil sector”.

Answers were not long in coming and the Cuban president expressed on Twitter his “deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, who quickly offered material assistance in solidarity with 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.”

< p>The U.S. Embassy in Havana had earlier said it was “in contact” with Cuban officials, saying that despite the ongoing sanctions regime against the ruling single party, “U.S. law allows entities and organizations to provide relief and disaster response in Cuba.”

“The skies were yellow”

Helicopters were on the job to fight the fire on Saturday, with water hoses approached 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 told AFP. At that time, “people's fear was out of control”.

Laura Martinez, a resident near the disaster area, told AFP that she “felt the blast, 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, then heard more explosions in the early hours of the morning and sounds “like pieces of the tank falling.”

According to Asbel Leal, director of trade and supply at the Cuban Petroleum Union (Cupet), the first tank “contained approximately 26,000 cubic meters of domestic crude, or approximately 50% of its maximum capacity” at the time of the disaster. The second tank held 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil.

Cuba has never faced a fire of “the magnitude of today's”, he said.< /p>

According to the official Granma daily, “there was a failure in the lightning rod system which could not withstand the power of the discharge electricity.”

The depot supplies the Antonio Guiteras power plant, the largest in Cuba, but the pumping to the plant has not stopped, Granma clarified

This fire comes as the island faces the obsolescence of eight thermoelectric power plants to meet the increased demand for electricity due to the summer heat.

< p>The authorities must carry out rotating cuts of up to 12 hours a day in certain regions of the country, triggering the anger of exasperated residents who have organized around twenty demonstrations.