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Fire at Cuban Oil Facility Leaves Dozens Injured, Hundreds Evacuated

HAVANA — Lightning struck a crude oil storage facility on the northern coast of Cuba, igniting a fireplace that on Saturday had left dozens of individuals injured, 17 firefighters lacking and prompted the evacuation of some 800 individuals, in keeping with the authorities.

Images of the hearth at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, in Matanzas Province, 60 miles east of Havana, the capital, have been shared by the Cuban Energy Ministry on social media and present huge flames rising from the ability, with plumes of smoke blackening the sky.

Military helicopters have been seen making an attempt to douse the inferno as dozens of firefighters rushed to the scene.

The hearth started at one oil tank throughout a thunderstorm on Friday night, in keeping with state information media, and unfold to a second tank early on Saturday morning. That tank was estimated to carry some 52,000 cubic meters of gasoline oil, or over 13 million gallons.

As of Saturday afternoon, there have been no reported deaths however 77 individuals had been hospitalized, in keeping with Matanzas authorities officers. The 17 firefighters reportedly went lacking Saturday morning simply because the second tank exploded round 5 a.m.

The base, which shops oil for vitality manufacturing, is close to considered one of Cuba’s main energy crops. Already, the Caribbean island struggles with widespread energy blackouts on account of persistent gasoline shortages and an ailing infrastructure in dire want of upkeep.

While the lights are principally stored on within the capital, within the Cuban provinces the place 9 of the nation’s 11 million individuals stay, hourslong energy cuts have change into a grueling a part of every day life in latest months. And diesel shortages have motorists ready in line for days.

“It’s a structural problem with Cuba’s electric power system, which has been operating for over 40 years with no scheduled capital maintenance,” mentioned Jorge Piñon, an vitality knowledgeable at the University of Texas, Austin. “That puts at risk a total collapse of the system with no short term solution.”

The nation’s largest protests in a long time have been prompted final yr partially by energy outages, in addition to a scarcity of meals and drugs within the nation, whose financial system has been onerous hit by each the pandemic and American sanctions.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel of Cuba visited the affected space on Saturday together with the nation’s prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, touring hospitals and assembly with the wounded.

“The dawn will be long and filled with anguish, as it was last night,” Mr. Díaz-Canel mentioned on Twitter. “There is no precedent for a fire of this magnitude at the Supertanker Base.”