17 lacking, dozens harm as fireplace rages in Cuban oil tank farm

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HAVANA — A hearth set off by a lightning strike at an oil storage facility raged uncontrolled Saturday within the metropolis of Matanzas, the place 4 explosions and flames injured practically 80 individuals and left 17 firefighters lacking, Cuban authorities mentioned.

Firefighters and different specialists have been nonetheless making an attempt to quell the blaze on the Matanzas Supertanker Base, the place the fireplace started throughout a thunderstorm Friday evening, the Ministry of Vitality and Mines tweeted. The governmeht mentioned later that it had requested for assist from worldwide consultants in “friendly countries” with expertise within the oil sector.

The official Cuban Information Company mentioned lightning hit one tank, beginning a fireplace, and the blaze later unfold to a second tank. As navy helicopters flew overhead dropping water on the blaze, dense column of black smoke billowed from the power and unfold westward greater than 100 kilometers (62 miles) towards Havana.

The Fb web page of the provincial authorities of Matanzas mentioned the variety of injured had reached 77, whereas 17 individuals have been lacking. The Presidency of the Republic mentioned the 17 have been “firefighters who were in the nearest area trying to prevent the spread.”

The accident comes as Cuba struggles with gas shortages. There was no fast phrase on how a lot oil had burned or was in peril on the storage facility, which has eight large tanks that maintain oil used to gas electrical energy producing vegetation.

“I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and terrible fire rose through the skies,” resident Adiel Gonzalez advised The Related Press by cellphone. “The city has a strong smell of sulfur.”

Authorities mentioned the Dubrocq neighborhood closest to the fireplace was evacuated, whereas Gonzalez added that some individuals determined to depart the Versailles district, which is a bit farther from the tank farm.

Many ambulances, police and fireplace engines have been seen within the streets of Matanzas, a metropolis with about 140,000 inhabitants that’s on Matnzas Bay.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel traveled to the realm of the fireplace early Saturday, officers mentioned.

Native meteorologist Elier Pila confirmed satellite tv for pc photos of the realm with a dense plume of black smoke shifting from the purpose of the fireplace westward and reaching east to Havana.

“That plume can be close to 150 kilometers long,” Pila wrote on his Twitter account.

Andrea Rodríguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

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