Cubans are becoming increasingly alarmed about the fuel tank fire in Matanzas, which is located just over a hundred kilometers from Havana. A second tank was destroyed and a spectacular column of fire was produced by an explosion that occurred in the last hours of this Sunday.
The officials initially asserted that it was a third tank. They discovered, however, that it was number two after searching the area, “that it was already on fire and that previously it had split and had taken out a little fuel.”
Mario Sabines Lorenzo, the governor of Matanzas, explained this by saying that “this time the explosion knocked away all the fuel.” In a video posted on the province government’s official Facebook page, he said, “Now it’s on, but extremely low, and fuel leaked into areas surrounding the tank and ignited weeds.”
Sabines Lorenzo said that the area is “at risk,” for instance since tank 3 is present, although saying that “many fire teams are on the ground, extinguishing where it might be extinguished.”
According to an official statement, “The third gasoline tank has not collapsed and is holding the cap, but the risk is imminent owing to the intensity of the neighboring fire.” Granma, the government daily, reports that “the fourth tank is already empty.”
In order to apply the firefighting foam concentrate to the flames when everything is ready, the firemen keep “fulfilling the equipment assembly timetable.”
The massive fire has so far resulted in one death, 16 people are still missing, and 122 injuries, according to official sources. 24 patients are still hospitalized, five of them are in critical condition, according to the most recent medical report. At the same time, they made it clear that the area had been cleared.
The cause of the fire at the Cuban oil depot
The major event started at 7:00 p.m. local time on Friday when lightning struck a tank holding 26,000 cubic meters of domestic oil, or almost 50% of its maximum capacity. Second tank later caught fire and exploded, spilling 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil.
There were eight sizable fuel tanks of the same sort in the supertanker base, which was situated in the Matanzas industrial area.
Firefighters and employees managed to douse the first tank’s fire on Sunday afternoon with assistance from Mexico and Venezuela, while Susely Morfa, the Communist Party of Cuba’s first secretary in Matanzas, tweeted that the second damaged tank was “in combustion and deformed.”
According to the presidency’s report on Saturday, the 16 people listed as missing include “firefighters who were in the area closest” to the fire.
The 60-year-old firefighter Juan Carlos Santana’s lifeless body was discovered on Saturday and was buried with honors on Sunday in his hometown of Rodas in the nearby province of Cienfuegos.
In a prominent hotel in Matanzas, relatives of the missing met with President Miguel Daz-Canel while they endured an agonizing wait with the help of doctors and psychologists.
The mother of a 19-year-old firefighter who was at the supertanker base early on Saturday morning told the AFP agency in tears, “My son performed his duty, he took a step forward,” when another explosion occurred in the second fuel tank.
Nearly forty kilometers north of Matanzas, at the airfield of the renowned resort of Varadero, four Mexican aircraft and one Venezuelan aircraft made their landings. With 60 soldiers and 16 technicians from Petróleos Mexicanos, the first plane of the Mexican Air Force landed. A second jet arrived later with equipment and chemical firefighting supplies.
Another plane carrying 35 firefighters, experts, and technicians from Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) arrived in the early hours of the morning from Venezuela. They were transporting 20 tons of foam and other chemicals. Daz-Canel told the media, “The aid is vital, I think it will be decisive.”
Before the fresh outbreak, the massive column of smoke that has covered Havana since Friday had started to dissipate on Sunday afternoon. The local Red Cross volunteers were waiting at an aid station around 150 meters from the super tanker base, while fire trucks were continuously driving away in the direction of the fire.
The catastrophe takes place three months after the Saratoga hotel explosion in Havana, which resulted from a gas leak and left 46 people dead, including a Spanish tourist, and more than 50 injured, in addition to the nearly complete destruction of the main building.