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Tragedy in Matanzas, Cuba: At Least 17 Missing and 67 Injured by Fire

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The city of Matanzas, in western Cuba, lives in anguish this Saturday before the fire of two oil tanks in an industrial area that so far has left 17 missing and 67 injured by burns.

As reported by the provincial hospital “Faustino Pérez”, Of the 67 injured treated so far due to the fire, three of them are in critical condition, another three very serious and 12 serious, the rest are less serious or with minor injuries.

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The Presidency also reported 17 missing, “firefighters who were in the area closest” to the fire.

The fire broke out on Friday afternoon after lightning struck one of the tanks at the supertanker base located on the outskirts of Matanzas, about 90 kilometers east of Havana, at 7:00 p.m. local time. At 05:00 this Saturday, the fire spread to a second warehouse.

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Mario Sabines Lorenzo, Governor of Matanzas, reported that there are around 800 evacuees.

“We ran away”

When the first explosion occurred, Yuney Hernández and his family left their house in the neighborhood of La Ganadera, about two kilometers from the fire. They returned “at around three in the morning” because the children were sleepy, this 32-year-old woman explained to AFP.

But around 05:00 they began to hear more explosions, “it felt like pieces of the tank were falling off”he added.

According to the official newspaper Granma, the first deposit “contained some 26,000 cubic meters of national crude oil, around 50% of its maximum capacity, when the intensity of the lightning struck the dome of the facility.”

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The country’s president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and the prime minister, Manuel Marrero, have been supervising relief efforts since dawn, official media reported.

From the upper parts of Matanzas the flames and an immense column of smoke that has spread in the direction of Havana are observed. In the vicinity of the fire, several parked ambulances, water tanks and cranes ready to intervene are seen.

”Lightning rod failure”

“Apparently there was a fault in the lightning rod system, which could not withstand the energy of the electrical discharge,” according to Granma.

Danger Ricardo, a 37-year-old welder who works at the site, cannot explain how the tanks’ lightning rod system failed.

“The thing is quite ugly, it had never been foreseen that a tank would explode there because it has a lightning rod system that it is not known how it failed”he explained.

The two tanks supply the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, the largest in Cuba, but pumping to that plant has not stopped, Granma reported.

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The fire occurs at a time when the island has been experiencing difficulties since last May to meet the increased demand for energy due to the summer heat.

The obsolescence of its eight thermoelectric plants, breakages, scheduled maintenance and lack of fuel hamper power generation.

Since May, the authorities have scheduled blackouts of up to 12 hours a day in some regions of the country. Since then there have been twenty protests in towns in the interior of the island.

Cuba currently has an average power distribution capacity of 2,500 megawatts, insufficient for the demand of households at times of maximum consumption, which reaches 2,900 megawatts, according to official information. (YO)

Source: Eluniverso

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