Dozens injured in Cuba oil tank fire

A blazing fire in a crude oil tank in the port of Matanzas in Cuba caused several explosions, injuring at least 77 people, local authorities said.

Seventeen firefighters who tried to stop the flames from spreading are missing, the official Twitter account of the Cuban presidential office said.

The Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma said there was “a high probability” that some of the missing people were dead. Authorities said rescue teams were unable to reach them because of the high temperatures.

The newspaper said that Energy Minister Livan Arronte Cruz is one of the injured.

The fire started Friday evening when lightning struck a crude oil storage tank at the unloading site in the port of Matanzas.

Despite firefighters’ efforts to bring it under control, there were at least four explosions in the early hours of Saturday, the Matanzas provincial government said on its official Twitter account.

Images shared on social media on Saturday morning show a huge column of black smoke crisscrossing the city of Matanzas and stretching 100 kilometers west to Havana.

At least 77 people were injured in the fire, according to the latest count reported by Granma. Three reportedly suffered serious injuries and two more are in critical condition. Most of the victims were admitted to the local Faustino Perez hospital, but seven were referred to hospitals in Havana.

Among those injured with minor burns were three journalists who arrived at the site of the fire around 4 a.m. when an explosion occurred in a second oil tank containing 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil.

The oil storage facility is located in an area of ​​Matanzas Bay opposite the city center. According to state media, 800 residents from nearby areas have been evacuated so far.

The first tank to be struck by lightning was at half capacity, holding about 25,000 cubic liters of Cuban crude oil. Local authorities said the lightning rod system was unable to prevent the fire.

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