A fire caused by the impact of lightning in an oil storage tank in the Cuban city of Matanzas caused four explosions and left more than 70 people injuredofficials and official agencies reported in the early hours of Saturday.
The incident began on Friday night, when an electrical storm occurred in the area of the Matanzas Supertanker Base, the Ministry of Energy and Mines tweeted.
The fire could not be put out despite the work of firefighters and specialists, so it continued on Saturday morning, also involving the adjoining containers.
The authorities reported at least four explosions and two tanks burning in this city of almost 140,000 inhabitants, located about 100 kilometers from Havana, next to the bay of the same name.
A lightning strike unleashed the fire in a crude oil deposit in Matanzas, Cuba. Photo: AFP
The Facebook page of the provincial government of Matanzas reported that the number of injured rose to 77 people, while there were 17 missing. The Presidency of the Republic specified that the 17 are “firefighters who were in the closest area trying to prevent the spread.”
Three local journalists who were covering the news were also injured during one of the early morning explosions, but they are out of danger.
“Smell of Sulfur”
“I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and terrible fire rose through the skies,” said Adiel González, a 32-year-old language graduate and resident of Matanzas.
“The city has a strong smell of sulfur,” he told Associated Press by telephone.
González said that he heard other explosions in the early hours and that They sounded “like bombs.”
A firefighter stands in front of the warehouse that caught fire on Friday night in Matanzas, Cuba. Photo: AFP
The authorities indicated that the neighborhood closest to the affected area was evacuatedthe Dubrocq cast, but González added that some people decided to move away from another, called Versalles and a little further from the Supertanker Base.
There were many ambulances, police and fire vehicles everywhere.
The fire occurred at a time when Cuba has great difficulties in obtaining oil – it must buy half of what its market requires – to meet the demand of its energy system and reduce blackouts, which overwhelm the population.
The amount of fuel consumed by the flames until now is unknown, but since it was a national bill, its destination would have been the thermoelectric plants.
The two tanks supply the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, the largest in Cuba, but pumping to that plant has not stopped, the official newsper reported. Granma.
The obsolescence of its eight thermoelectric plants, breakages, scheduled maintenance and lack of fuel hamper power generation.
The authorities program from May 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.
According to the Cuban News Agency, the impacted container was at 50% of its cacity and the lightning rod that the base had could not protect the power of the discharge. The fire then spread to a second tank.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel traveled to the area of the fire at dawn.
Local meteorologist Elier Pila showed satellite images of the area, which showed a dense column of black smoke moving west from the point of the fire and reaching as far east as Havana, the cital.
“That plume (the way it looks) can be close to 150 kilometers long,” he wrote on his Twitter account.