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Cuban oil depot fire injures 125 and leaves 17 firefighters missing

08 August 2022

A significant fire broke out at an oil depot in Cuba on August 5 after a lightning strike hit a storage tank. As of August 8, the blaze continues to burn and has left 125 people injured and 17 firefighters missing. One body has been discovered, Cuban officials have said.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

The incident happened after lightning struck one of eight storage tankers at a fuel depot facility near the city of Matanzas around 60 miles east of Havana. A fire broke out at the Matanzas Supertanker Base at around 20:00 local time. Firefighters were called to the scene and began attempts to stop the flames from spreading to other storage tanks. However, they were unable to prevent the fire from spreading and a second explosion occurred at 05:00, leaving many firefighters missing.
Firefighters continued to struggle to contain the blaze on August 9 after it spread to a third storage tank. Officials have said that a fourth tank is now at risk, but is it yet to catch fire.

A total of 125 people have so far been injured as a result of the blaze with 35 being taken to hospital, five in critical conditions. The areas surrounding the oil depot were evacuated with around 5,000 people being taken away to safer locations. News reports have said that black smoke rising from the scene had spread as far as Havana, 60 miles to the west. The Cuban government has warned locals to be cautious of acid rain.

Cuban officials said on August 8 that Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, and Chile had all offered aid and assistance to help battle the fire while the US offered “technical advice”. Several military helicopters were brought to the scene to help dump seawater on the remaining storage tanks to prevent the fire from spreading.

The incident comes at a time when Cuba has been struggling with fuel shortages. The fuel depot stores fuel used for power plants which means a significant loss of oil in the August 5 incident could worsen the situation for many Cubans.

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