The Cuban presidency reported that the 17 missing were “firefighters who were in the area closest to the fire” when the explosion occurred, and asked for “help and advice from friendly countries with experience in the petroleum sector.” President Miguel Diaz-Canel assessed on Twitter that it would “take time” to bring the fire under control.
The official newspaper Granma reports that three people are in serious condition, three people are in very serious condition and 12 people are seriously injured.
On Friday evening, lightning struck one of the oil depot’s tanks on the outskirts of Matanzas, a city of 140,000 people 100 kilometers east of Havana. The fire then spread to the second tank. According to Granma, “a failure occurred in the lightning rod system that could not withstand the force of the electric discharge”.
Matanzas Governor Mario Sabins Lorenzo said about 800 people had been evacuated.
A size never seen before
According to Azbel Leal, Trade and Supply Director of the Cuban Petroleum Union (CUPET), the first tank contained “about 26,000 cubic meters of domestic crude or about 50% of its maximum capacity” at the time of the disaster. The second tank held 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil. According to him, Cuba has never faced a fire of “today’s magnitude”.
The investment supplies the Antonio Gutierrez power plant, Cuba’s largest, but pumping to the plant has not stopped, Granma said.
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