One person has died and more than a hundred were injured after the fire that is still active in two crude oil tanks in the province of Matanzas, on the western coast of, as confirmed by the Cuban Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP). So far 121 people have been treated, of which 36 are hospitalized and 85 have been discharged.
The Minsap clarified in a press release that the body recovered is in the process of identification. Preliminary reports revealed 17 missing firefighters who “were in the closest area trying to prevent the spread,” according to authorities. The images show helicopters spraying seawater and sand over the burning area to prevent the fire from spreading, as well as actions to cool the rest of the tanks and prevent possible explosions.
The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and his prime minister, Manuel Marrero, traveled to Matanzas at dawn to closely follow the evolution of the event and visited the wounded in the nearby Faustino Pérez provincial hospital. The governor of Matanzas, Mario Sabines, specified that more than 1,000 people were evacuated and that operations continue to move those who live in vulnerable places.
The fire, which is still burning, started Friday afternoon when lightning struck one of eight fuel depots at the site. On Saturday morning, a second explosion occurred in another tank that caused visible columns of smoke as far as Havana, 104 kilometers from the place.
50,000 cubic meters of crude
The affected crude deposits, with a capacity of 50,000 cubic meters, are located in the base of supertankers in an industrial area of Matanzas, near the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, the main one in the country.
The amount of fuel per tank is comparable to that of 15 Olympic swimming pools, but the amount they contained at the time of the explosions is unknown.
The affected base has a lightning rod system, but the discharge was of such magnitude that it could not protect it, Rigel Rodríguez, director of the Matanzas Territorial Division of Fuel Marketing, explained to the official Cubadebate website.
The Electric Union of Cuba ruled out that the fire affected the power generation of the Guiteras, which “keeps working in a stable manner.”
Cuba coordinates aid with the US
Given the magnitude of the incident, the Cuban government requested international help and advice with experience in the oil issue. Díaz-Canel thanked countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile on Twitter, “which have promptly offered solidary material aid in the face of this complex situation.”
“We also appreciate the offer of technical advice from the US,” he added.
Earlier, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossío confirmed on Twitter that he will coordinate with the US. the aid offered by this country. The US government “offered technical advice, a proposal already in the hands of specialists for proper coordination,” he said.
The Forecast Center of the Cuban Institute of Meteorology warned on Twitter that conditions were “favorable for the continued spread of smoke to the west and west-northwest, over Matanzas, Mayabeque and Havana,” in the west of the island. .
In that sense, he recommended that people wear masks and avoid exposing themselves. The local press media disclosed the alerts of the meteorologist of the province of Artemisa (west) Jorge Félix Hernández, about the formation of showers and rains accompanied by high levels of pollutants.
The expert recommended avoiding exposure to this rain, protecting domestic animals and not using this water.