Cuba declares official mourning in memory of 45 dead in hotel explosion

A firefighter activates a ladder in front of the wreckage of the Hotel Saratoga, in Havana, on May 12, 2022 – AFP

Cuba declared an official 42-hour mourning period starting at dawn on Friday, after rescuing the body of the last person killed in the explosion six days ago at the Saratoga hotel in Havana, which left 45 dead.

“In light of the unfortunate accident that took place at the Saratoga hotel on May 6, in which 44 compatriots and a Spanish citizen lost their lives so far, and after the rescue and rescue actions were completed, the President of the Republic of Cuba (Miguel Díaz- Canel) agreed to declare official mourning”, according to an official note read on television.

During the mourning, which will take place from dawn on Friday to midnight on Saturday, the Cuban flag “must be flown at half-mast in public buildings and military institutions”, added the official text.

Mourning was declared shortly after Colonel Luis Carlos Guzmán, head of the Fire Department, announced to the press the removal of the last body from the rubble of the hotel, which exploded late on Friday morning while it was being gassed.

Guzmán, who ended the search work, said that the recovery of this last body, from a hotel employee, was “a very risky job”.

With the corpse of this woman, the number of dead in this tragedy reached 45, including four children and adolescents, a pregnant woman and the 29-year-old Spanish tourist.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, the accident, probably caused by a gas leak, left 54 ​​injured, of whom 16 remained hospitalized on Thursday, including four minors, two of them in critical condition.

The five-star hotel, located on Old Havana’s busy Paseo del Prado, had been closed for two years due to the pandemic and was preparing to reopen to the public last Tuesday. Its first four floors were destroyed in the explosion.

Built in 1880 and turned into a hotel in 1933, the Saratoga was known to have housed a number of celebrities in recent years, including Mick Jagger, Beyoncé and Madonna.

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