[EN IMAGES] Cuba: 18 dead in Saratoga Hotel explosion in Havana

At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 injured after Friday’s powerful blast, likely due to a gas leak that partially destroyed the Hotel Saratoga in central Havana, Cuba.

“So far there are 74 injured, of whom unfortunately 18 have died,” said Julio Guerra, head of hospital services at the Ministry of Health, at a news conference, including a child.

The Cuban Presidency spoke of 64 injured and 18 dead after this explosion.


[EN IMAGES]    Cuba: 18 dead in Saratoga Hotel explosion in Havana

A little earlier, Miguel Garcia, director of the Calixto Garcia hospital, where some of the injured are being treated, said eleven of them were “in an extremely serious condition.”

“A two-year-old child is being operated on for a fractured skull,” said Miguel Hernan Estévez, director of Hermanos Almejeiras Hospital.


[EN IMAGES]    Cuba: 18 dead in Saratoga Hotel explosion in Havana

For his part, the first secretary of the Communist Party in Havana, Luis Antonio Torres Iribar, said at noon that “13 people are missing” and “possibly trapped” under the rubble.

No foreigners are believed to be among the victims, authorities said.

The hotel under construction, with its green facade, is an emblematic facility of Old Havana and was closed to tourists for two years.

Only staff were inside to prepare for the reopening scheduled for May 10th.

“According to initial information, the explosion was caused by a gas leak,” the Cuban Presidency’s Twitter account said.

According to the head of the historic district of the Cuban capital, Alexis Costa Silva, quoted by state media Cubadebate, a bottle of LPG was changed at the hotel.


[EN IMAGES]    Cuba: 18 dead in Saratoga Hotel explosion in Havana

The cook smelled gas and spotted a crack in the pipe, which caused the explosion.

“It wasn’t a bomb, it wasn’t an attack, it was an unfortunate accident,” said President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who arrived on the scene shortly afterwards in an effort to put an end to rumors on social networks that the bombings were provoking several hotels in the 1990s, sponsored by Cuban exiles.

“A Terrible Blast”

Washington, through State Department spokesman Ned Price, sent its “heartfelt condolences” to all those affected by the tragic explosion.


[EN IMAGES]    Cuba: 18 dead in Saratoga Hotel explosion in Havana

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said on Twitter that he had spoken to Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez “to take an interest in the situation after the explosion in Havana and to send him my condolences and solidarity with the Cuban people.” .

Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela, a close ally of Cuba, called his Cuban counterpart to express his condolences: “The Cuban people receive the solidarity and support of all the peoples of the world and in particular the Bolivarian people of Venezuela.”


[EN IMAGES]    Cuba: 18 dead in Saratoga Hotel explosion in Havana

The first four floors of the 5-star Saratoga Hotel, with its 96 rooms, two restaurants and rooftop pool, were blown up in the blast around 11 a.m. (3 p.m. GMT), leaving the ground littered with debris and pieces Glass, AFP journalists noted.

A few minutes after the explosion, a thick cloud of smoke and dust spread over the Avenue du Prado, where this bar is located, a stone’s throw from the famous Capitol.

There was “a massive” explosion and “a cloud of dust that reached the park (in front of the hotel, ed.), many people ran out,” Rogelio Garcia, driver of a pedicab that passed in front of it, told AFP from the Saratoga at the time of the tragedy.


[EN IMAGES]    Cuba: 18 dead in Saratoga Hotel explosion in Havana

“There was a terrible explosion and everything collapsed,” said a dust-covered woman who declined to give her name.

A dozen ambulances and five fire engines were mobilized, AFP noted. In the late afternoon, the tanker was evacuated while a machine gradually cleared the debris.

Several vehicles have been vandalized near this hotel, which is known to have hosted several celebrities in recent years, including Mick Jagger, Beyoncé and Madonna.

Built in 1880 for shops, the building was converted into a hotel in 1933 and upgraded to a luxury hotel in 2005.

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