Havana (EFE).- The Presidency of Cuba raised this Friday to 18 the number of fatalities -including a child and a pregnant woman- in the strong explosion in a luxury hotel in the center of Havana. Havana.
On Twitter, the country’s Presidency also indicated that 64 people were injured, including 14 minors.
The health authorities, in a press conference, specified that among the injured adults there are 18 serious and critical, and that, among the minors, there are three critical and two serious.
The Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, assured that there are no foreigners among the injured. Details of the deceased have not yet been released. Eight health institutions in the capital have been mobilized to care for the victims.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who visited the scene of the accident, stressed that it was an “unfortunate accident” and totally ruled out that it was a “bomb” or an “attack.”
The event occurred minutes before 11 in the morning (15 GMT), when a liquefied gas tanker served a hotel deposit.
The most likely thesis is that the explosion is due to a leak. The explosion caused a section of the building -seven stories high- to collapse and the facade of the first three floors to come off, causing a rain of tons of rubble on the sidewalk.
The tanker truck was partially buried. The explosion caused a large column of white smoke, which was visible in much of the capital. Firefighters, police officers and emergency teams quickly rushed to the scene, taking those affected to several nearby hospitals.
A nearby school was evacuated. A group of specialists then began to clear the area in search of possible victims trapped in the building, tasks that lasted until night. At the same time, the damaged tanker truck, which still had highly flammable liquefied gas inside, was lifted with a crane and with great precautions, and it was deposited in a large truck for its transfer.
In the next few days, a technical inspection of the building will have to be carried out to decide if it can be restored or the structural damage will lead to its demolition.
The Saratoga is housed in a neoclassical-style building built in 1880 and operating as a hotel since 1911. Its last restoration took place in 2005, according to official media.
With five stars, the hotel is considered one of the most luxurious in the city. The establishment is located in the Paseo del Prado, one of the main avenues of Old Havana, in the historic center of the Cuban capital.