Powerful explosion rocks luxury hotel in Cuba, killing at least 18

Powerful explosion rocks luxury hotel in Cuba, killing at least 18

File photo File photo


When a powerful explosion blew away the outer walls of a luxury hotel in the heart of Cuba's capital, it killed at least 18 people, including a pregnant woman and a child, and injured dozens more.

Havana Gov. Reinaldo Garca Zapata told the Communist Party newspaper Granma that no tourists were staying at the 96-room Hotel Saratoga because it was undergoing renovations.

"It isn't a bomb or a terrorist attack. It was a tragic mishap "In a tweet, President Miguel Dáz-Canel, who visited the site, said.

After the blast on Friday, Daz-Canel told reporters that 50 adults and 14 children were hospitalised.

The blast was reportedly caused by a truck delivering natural gas to the hotel, but no details on how the gas ignited were provided by Cuban state television.

People on the street stared in awe as the blast blew smoke into the air around the hotel, with one saying, "Oh my God," and cars honking their horns as they sped away from the scene, according to video. It occurred as Cuba battled to resurrect its key tourism sector, which had been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of injured, according to Cuba's national health minister, José ngel Portal, could rise as the search for people trapped in the rubble of the 19th century structure in the city's Old Havana neighbourhood continues.

"We're still looking for a large group of people who may be under the rubble," said Fire Department Lt. Col. Noel Silva.

A nearby elementary school was forced to close. It was unclear whether the injured children were students at the time.

As firefighters and rescue workers worked inside the wreckage of the iconic hotel about 110 yards (100 metres) from Cuba's Capitol building, police cordoned off the area.

The hotel was renovated in 2005 as part of the Cuban government's revitalization of Old Havana, and is now owned by Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA, the Cuban military's tourism business arm. The company said it was looking into the cause of the explosion, but did not immediately respond to an email seeking more information about the hotel and the renovation.

Visiting VIPs and political figures, including high-ranking US government delegations, have frequented the Hotel Saratoga. During a trip to Cuba in 2013, Beyoncé and Jay-Z stayed there.

Michel Figueroa, a photographer, said he was walking past the hotel when "My head still hurts from the explosion that threw me to the ground.... Everything happened in a flash."

In the afternoon, worried relatives of people who had worked at the hotel arrived at a hospital to look for them. Beatriz Céspedes Cobas was one of them, searching for her sister with tears in her eyes.

"Today she had to work. She works as a maid "she stated "Two blocks away is where I work. I heard the noise and didn't immediately associate it with anything "the hotel and the explosion

The explosion shook Yazira de la Caridad's home, which is a block away from the hotel: "The entire structure shifted. I mistook it for an earthquake."

Apart from the impact of the pandemic on Cuba's tourism sector, the country was already dealing with sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump and maintained by the Biden administration. US tourists were restricted from visiting the islands, and remittances from Cubans in the US to their families in Cuba were restricted.

Tourism had begun to pick up earlier this year, but the conflict in Ukraine stifled a surge of Russian visitors, who accounted for nearly a third of all visitors to Cuba last year.

The explosion occurred on the final day of a tourism convention in the iconic beach town of Varadero, which was aimed at attracting investors.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is expected to arrive in Havana late Saturday for a visit, according to Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard.

Mayiee Pérez said she rushed to the hotel after her husband, Daniel Serra, who works at the hotel's foreign exchange shop, called her.

He allegedly told her: "I'm fine, thank you. We were rescued." After that, she was unable to contact him.





Edited By: Admin
Published On: May 07, 2022