A massive explosion at Havana’s exclusive Saratoga Hotel has claimed the lives of 22 people and more than 60 have been hospitalized.
According to the initial version, a gasoline tank parked near the Saratoga Hotel caught fire, the explosion caused by fire destroyed several floors of the building, reports air force. The hotel was preparing for its official reopening in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in four days, amid a resurgence in tourism in the country after two difficult years.
After the tragic incident, the outer wall of the building was destroyed. Rescuers continue to search for people trapped under the rubble. Authorities fear the final death toll could be much higher. The President of the country said that among the dead were a child and a pregnant woman. The injured were taken to nearby hospitals.
Witnesses say that the strongest explosion caused a feeling of an earthquake, writes CBS News. Black smoke was observed from different areas of Havana. The nearby school was not damaged, the children were evacuated. Residents of the capital are applying to become blood donors.
The head of Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel, visited the site of the incident, located opposite the old government building of the Congress, accompanied by the country’s prime minister and the chairman of the Cuban parliament. Prior to this, the President visited the victims in several hospitals in the city. He noted: “It was not a bomb or a terrorist attack, it was an accident.”
For much of the duration of the pandemic, the Saratoga Inn, a well-known landmark in the capital’s colonial district, has been closed for renovations. In the 19th century building, during the thaw between Havana and Washington under President Barack Obama, many stars stayed – Madonna, Mick Jagger, Beyoncé.