Havana, May 7
A powerful explosion apparently caused by a natural gas leak killed at least 22 people, including a child, and injured dozens when it blew away outer walls from a luxury hotel in the heart of Cuba’s capital.
No tourists were staying at Havana’s 96-room Hotel Saratoga because it was undergoing renovations, Havana Gov. Reinaldo García Zapata told the Communist Party newspaper Granma.It’s not a bomb or an attack. It is a tragic accident,” President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who visited the site, said in a tweet. Dr Julio Guerra Izquierdo, chief of hospital services at the Ministry of Health, told reporters that at least 74 people had been injured on Friday. Among them were 14 children, according to a tweet from Díaz-Canel’s office. Díaz-Canel said families in buildings near the hotel affected by the explosion had been transferred to safer locations. Cuban state TV reported the explosion was caused by a truck that had been supplying natural gas to the hotel, but did not provide details on how the gas ignited. A white tanker truck was seen being removed from the site as rescue workers hosed it down with water. The blast sent smoke billowing into the air around the hotel with people on the street staring in awe, one saying “Oh my God,” and cars honking their horns as they sped away from the scene, video showed. It happened as Cuba is struggling to revive its key tourism sector that was devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.