At least eight people were killed, at least 30 were injured and at least 13 were missing after a powerful explosion ripped through the Saratoga Hotel in central Havana on Friday, possibly due to a gas leak.
“So far, eight people have died and about 30 have been hospitalized,” the Cuban president said on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, Louis Antonio Torres Eyribar, the Communist Party’s first secretary in Havana, announced that “13 people (are missing)” and warned that “search and rescue operations are underway at the hotel, where he and others may be trapped.”
The hotel, which was established to mark the green facade of old Havana, was closed to tourists under construction. The only staff inside was preparing for its reopening, scheduled for May 10.
“The first findings indicate that the explosion was caused by a gas leak,” the Cuban president’s account said on Twitter.
According to Alexis Costa Silva, local head of Havana’s historic district, state media quoted Cubpat as a liquefied gas was transferred to the hotel. The cook sensed the smell of gas and found cracks in the pipe, which caused the explosion.
“It’s not a bomb or an attack, it’s a tragic accident,” said President Miguel Diaz-Connell, who arrived shortly afterwards, seeking to put an end to the rumors on social media that provoked the attacks. Many hotels in the 1990s were funded by Cuban expatriates.
The first four floors of the Saratoga Hotel, with 96 rooms, two restaurants and a rooftop swimming pool, were rated 5 stars, which exploded at 11:00 a.m. local time (1500 GMT) and shattered on the ground. Debris and pieces of glass, specific AFP journalists.
Minutes after the explosion, a haze of smoke and dust spread on Avenue du Prado, a stone’s throw from the famous Capitol public building.
“We realized a huge explosion and a cloud of dust had reached the park (opposite the hotel, editor’s note) and many people had fled,” car driver Rogelio Garcia told AFP. Explosion time.
“There was a terrible explosion, everything fell apart,” said one woman, whose face was covered in dust and she did not want to be named.
Several vehicles were destroyed near the hotel, which is known to have entertained many celebrities in recent years, including Madonna and Beyonc.
Built in 1880 to house shops, the building was converted into a hotel in 1933 and renovated into a luxury hotel in 2005.
While emergency services were searching for more victims in the rubble at the base of the hotel, a large number of policemen, who had arrived, erected a fence around the perimeter. The AFP said at least two ambulances and five fire engines were on the scene.
The AFP said at least two ambulances and five fire engines were on the scene.
President Diaz-Connell, who went to the hospital to treat the injured, told doctors: “Be the best, we must save ours.”
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted “unity and bewilderment” and offered his “true condolences to the families of the victims.”
A school was located near the hotel, but fortunately, all the children were evacuated and no one was injured, the Cuban president pointed out.