The massive fire that broke out on Friday in an oil depot in Cuba is still out of control, and the authorities announced on Monday, 8 August, that the fire had destroyed the third tank and threatened a fourth.
Alexander Avalos Jorge, an official with Cuba’s fire department, told reporters that “all four tanks” of 50 million liters each located in a storage base “have been compromised.” “It has been a chain reaction,” he said.
The fire started Friday night when lightning struck one of the eight tanks of the depot located in Matanzas, 100 km east of Havana, which contained 26,000 m3 of crude oil, about 50% of its maximum capacity.
Attacked by fire, the cylindrical structure exploded early on Saturday 6 August, spreading the flames to a second tank containing 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil.
Despite firefighters perched on cranes and helicopters making multiple water drops, this second tank was torn apart after an explosion at midnight on Sunday, August 7, forcing a rescue evacuation.
“And what we feared has happened” with the fire and destruction of a third tank containing crude oil, Matanzas Governor Mario Sabines said Monday, August 8, in a video posted on the presidency’s Twitter account, before the fire spread to a fourth tank.
The state of the situation is “very complex” with a “quite large” fire area, the governor said.
Sabines said that “teams” of rescue workers from Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela “are being positioned” to spread the fire-fighting foam, which “may take some time.”
According to the latest report, one firefighter has died and the figure of 16 missing has been reduced to 14, while 22 people are still hospitalized, five in critical condition.
The missing relatives met with President Miguel Diaz-Canel and received assistance from doctors and psychologists.
On Sunday, 7 August, four planes from Mexico and Venezuela landed in the resort town of Varadero, 40 km north-east of Matanzas, with oil firefighting specialists and tons of fire-fighting foam on board.
This tragedy comes three months after the explosion in Havana at the Saratoga Hotel caused by a gas leak, which killed 46 people, including a Spanish tourist, and injured more than 50.