Hundreds Injured And Dozens Missing In Explosion At Oil Storage Facility

Cuba sought on Sunday to bring under control a fire at its main oil storage facility that has killed one firefighter, drawing on help from Mexico and Venezuela to fight the raging flames.

A lightning strike on Friday ignited one of eight storage tanks at the Matazanas supertanker port 60 miles east of Havana. A second tank caught fire on Saturday, catching firefighters and others at the scene by surprise. Sixteen people were missing.

The second explosion injured more than 100 people, many first responders, and 24 remain hospitalized, five in critical condition.

“We are facing a fire of such magnitude that it is tough to control in Cuba, where there are not all the means that are required,“ Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel told reporters.

On Sunday, 82 Mexican and 35 Venezuelan personnel experienced in combating fuel blazes joined the effort, bringing four planeloads of fire-fighting chemicals.

The United States also offered assistance stating from the US Embassy account:

“The help is important; I would say that it is vital, and it is going to be decisive,” Diaz-Canel said. Cuba had been using water and helicopters to battle the flames.

Jorge Pinon, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Latin America and Caribbean Energy and Environment Program, said each tank at the facility could store 300,000 barrels and provide fuel to electric plants.

Cuba has been suffering daily blackouts and fuel shortages. The loss of fuel and storage capacity likely aggravates the situation, which has spurred small local protests in the last few months.

For more on this story, please consider these sources:

  1. Cuba was already facing an electricity crisis. These explosions could make that much worse – Miami Herald
  2. Firefighters battle big blaze at Cuba tank farm for 2nd day – The Associated Press
  3. Fire at Cuban oil facility leaves 1 dead, 121 injured: officials – Fox News
  4. 17 Missing, 121 Hurt, 1 Dead as Lightning Strike on Cuban Oil Facility Causes Massive Fire – NBC