HAVANA — Lightning struck a crude oil storage facility on the northern coast of Cuba, igniting a hearth that on Saturday had left dozens of individuals injured, 17 firefighters lacking and prompted the evacuation of some 600 folks, in line with the authorities.
Photos of the fireplace on the Matanzas Supertanker Base, in Matanzas Province, 60 miles east of Havana, the capital, have been shared by the Cuban Vitality Ministry on social media and present monumental flames rising from the power, with plumes of smoke blackening the sky.
Navy helicopters have been seen attempting to douse the inferno as dozens of firefighters rushed to the scene. Along with the 600 evacuees, some 1,300 folks fled the world, in line with the workplace of Cuba’s president, Miguel Díaz-Canel.
The hearth 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 121 folks had been hospitalized, in line with the president’s workplace. 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 one in every 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 folks reside, hourslong energy cuts have develop into a grueling a part of every day life in latest months. And diesel shortages have motorists ready in line for days.
“It’s a structural drawback with Cuba’s electrical energy system, which has been working for over 40 years with no scheduled capital upkeep,” stated Jorge Piñon, an vitality skilled 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 financial system has been laborious hit by each the pandemic and American sanctions. In Havana, the place smoke from the Matanzas fireplace may very well be seen on the horizon, residents fearful that the blaze might make an already tough state of affairs even worse.
“It appears to be like actually horrible as a result of the nation goes by way of a gasoline disaster, an electrical energy disaster,” stated Amanda Hernández, 20, a college scholar. “The explosion goes to make the blackouts even worse.”
Like many residents, Ms. Hernández has needed to get used to common energy outages in latest months, typically for hours at a time. With Dengue fever widespread within the capital, she worries that with out electrical energy she gained’t be capable to preserve the disease-spreading mosquitoes at bay.
“We now have ‘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 Díaz-Canel 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 shall be lengthy and crammed with anguish, because it was final evening,” Mr. Díaz-Canel stated on Twitter. “There is no such thing as a precedent for a hearth of this magnitude on the Supertanker Base.”
Up to now, Cuba has shunned improvement support as a matter of nationwide satisfaction. However because the fireplace, there have been calls from state media and authorities officers for worldwide help.
“I deeply admire the messages of solidarity and choices at this tough time,” stated International Minister Bruno Rodríguez on Twitter. “Our international coverage is activated to obtain the assistance of pleasant international locations.”
Among the many international locations lining as much as assist was the US, with its embassy in Havana tweeting: “We need to clarify that U.S. regulation authorizes U.S. entities and organizations to supply catastrophe reduction and response in Cuba.”