Seventeen missing and 77 injured are the so far accounts of the fire that broke out due to lightning in oil installations in Cuba, for which the government asked yesterday Saturday for help from abroad.
The 17 missing are firefighters who were closest to a burning tank when a powerful explosion occurred, according to the Cuban presidency, which “requested the help and advice of friendly countries with experience in the oil sector.”
In a post on Twitter, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel estimated that it will take time until the fire is under control.
Three wounded are hospitalized in critical condition, three others in very serious condition and 12 are seriously injured, according to Granma, the official newspaper of the K.E. of the Communist Party of Cuba.
The fire broke out Friday night when lightning struck one of the tanks at the oil facility on the outskirts of Matanzas, a city of 140,000 people about 100 kilometers east of Havana. The fire then spread to a second tank.
According to Granma, the lightning rod could not withstand the force of the electrical discharge.
The governor of Matanzas, Mario Sabines Lorenzo, said about 800 people had been evacuated from the area.
According to Asbel Leal, commercial operations director of the Cuba Petoleo Union (CUPET), the first tank “contained almost 26,000 cubic meters of domestic crude – or about 50% of its maximum capacity” at the time of the disaster. The second tank contained 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil. He claimed that Cuba has never before faced a fire of this magnitude.
The oil facilities feed the “Antonio Guiteras” power plant, the largest in Cuba. However, the supply has not stopped so far, Granma reports.
The fire came as the island nation has faced supply problems since May to meet increased demand for electricity due to high summer temperatures.
Authorities have been forced to rotate power cuts that can last up to 12 hours a day in some parts of the country, angering many residents who are staging protests.