More than 70 injured and 17 missing leave fire in oil tanks in Matanzas, Cuba

The city killingsin western Cuba, lives in anguish this Saturday before the two oil tank fire in an industrial area that until now leaves 17 missing and 77 wounded for burns.

A new balance published by the official newspaper Granma raised the number of injuries caused by the incident to 77, including three in critical condition, another three very serious and 12 serious.

Also, 17 missing are reported, “firefighters who were in the area closest” to the fire, reported the presidency, which added that “Cuba requested help and advice from friendly countries with experience in the oil issue.”

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“The extinction of the fire may still take time,” President Miguel Díaz-Canel commented on Twitter, while the director of Commerce and Supply of the state Cuba-Petroleum Union (Cupet), Asbel Leal, specified that the country had never faced a fire of “the magnitude we have today”.

The fire broke out on Friday afternoon after lightning struck one of the tanks at the supertanker base located on the outskirts of Matanzas, 100 kilometers east of Havana, at 7:00 p.m. local time. At 05:00 this Saturday the fire spread to a second warehouse.

“We ran away”

“The noise was felt, like a wave of air that was taking you back,” Laura Martínez, a resident of the community of La Ganadera, about two kilometers from the accident area, told AFP.

Mario Sabines Lorenzo, Governor of Matanzas, reported that there are around 800 evacuees.

When the first explosion occurred, Yuney Hernández and her family left their house in La Ganadera. They returned “at around three in the morning” because the children were sleepy, this 32-year-old woman explained to AFP.

But around 05:00 they began to hear more explosions, “it felt like pieces of the tank were falling,” he added.

Photo: AFP

Ginelva Hernández, 33, lives in the same community with her husband and three children. «We went to bed around 3:30 and 4:45, we felt the bombings, like thunder. We jumped out of bed, when we went out into the street the sky was yellow,” the woman told AFP. “The fear of people on the street is uncontrollable,” she said.

According to Cupet, the first deposit “contained about 26,000 cubic meters of national crude oil, about 50% of its maximum capacity,” when it was struck by lightning. The second tank had 52 thousand cubic meters of fuel oil.

“Lightning rod failure”

“Apparently there was a fault in the lightning rod system, which could not withstand the energy of the electrical discharge,” according to Granma.

Danger Ricardo, a 37-year-old welder who works at the site, cannot explain how the tanks’ lightning rod system failed.

The two tanks supply the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, the largest in Cuba, but pumping to that plant has not stopped, Granma added.

Two helicopters began to work on the extinction tasks on Saturday morning in front of the bay of Matanzas, a city of 140,000 inhabitants.

Groups of exhausted firefighters gathered outside the plant waiting to go in to look for their colleagues who were unable to leave at the time of the second explosion.

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The fire occurs at a time when the island has been experiencing difficulties since last May to meet the increased demand for energy due to the summer heat.

The obsolescence of its eight thermoelectric plants, breakages, scheduled maintenance and lack of fuel hamper power generation.

Since May, the authorities have scheduled blackouts of up to 12 hours a day in some regions of the country. Since then there have been twenty protests in towns in the interior of the island.

Cuba currently has an average power distribution capacity of 2,500 megawatts, insufficient for the demand of households at times of maximum consumption, which reaches 2,900 megawatts, according to official information.

Photo: AFP

EAM

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