Firefighters battle large blaze at Cuba tank farm for day 2

HAVANA — Cuban firefighters were joined on Sunday by special teams sent by Mexico and Venezuela as they battled for a second day to control a blaze at a large oil reservoir in the western province of Matanzas.

The blaze began Friday night when lightning struck a storage tank during a thunderstorm, and the fire spread to a second tank early Saturday, triggering a series of explosions, officials said.

Authorities said on Sunday that a body found at the site had been identified as that of firefighter Juan Carlos Santana, 60.

A total of 122 people were treated for injuries, including five in critical condition, officials said.

Provincial Governor Mario Sabines said on Sunday that 4,946 people had been evacuated, mostly from the Dubrocq neighborhood, which is next to the Matanzas supertanker base in the city of Matanzas. The facility’s eight huge storage tanks contain petroleum used to fuel power generation.

Thick black smoke rose from the tank farm and traveled west more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) to Havana. The Ministry of Science and Technology said on Sunday that the cloud contained sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and other toxic substances.

The disaster comes as Cuba grapples with a severe economic and energy crisis, with frequent power cuts during a scorching summer. It was unclear how much fuel was lost in the flames.

The Cuban government had appealed for help Saturday from oil-producing countries, and specialized firefighting teams began arriving Saturday evening with their equipment from Mexico and Venezuela.

“The support (is) in risk prevention and also helps to extinguish the fire by means of water and foam-based cooling,” said the Mexican brigadier. said General Juan Bravo upon his arrival. “We hope more support will arrive soon, such as chemical material.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossío said on Saturday evening that the US government had offered technical assistance. On his Twitter account, he said that “the proposal is in the hands of specialists for the necessary coordination”.

Minutes later, President Miguel Díaz-Canel thanked Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile for their offers of help.


Andrea Rodríguez on Twitter:

ABC News

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