Large fire spread at Cuba fuel storage facility hit by lightning

HAVANA, Aug 6 (Reuters) – A second fuel storage tank near the Cuban supertanker port in Matanzas has followed flames that burned overnight after lightning struck another tank on Friday night. and it exploded on Saturday morning.

Cuban state television said at least 67 people were injured and 17 firefighters were missing in the second blast. Civilians had already been evacuated from the area.

Health Minister José Angel Portal Miranda said in a Twitter post that three of the injured were in critical condition, three in very serious condition and a further 12 in “critical” condition.

Seven patients have been transferred to hospitals in the capital, Havana.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited the site 80 miles east of Havana around midnight and returned in the morning for a live coverage of the disaster on national television.

Before the second explosion, Diaz-Canel posted on Twitter that first responders were “trying to avoid spreading flames and spilling fuel” into Matanzas Bay.

A later tweet from his office said Cuba was asking friendly nations for advice on putting out the fire.

By Saturday morning, the fire appeared to be completely out of control, and smoke reached Havana, threatening other nearby fuel storage tanks.

A paramedic at the scene, who requested anonymity, said in a phone call that cold water was being poured into a nearby tank.

Cuba suffers from daily blackouts and fuel shortages, and the loss of fuel and storage capacity could exacerbate the situation.

Jorge Pinon, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Energy and Environment Program at the University of Texas at Austin, said the region has eight large tanks with a capacity of 300,000 barrels each.

“This area could be very bad news for the power grid as it is a transshipment point for fuel to various thermal power plants as well as nearby thermal power plants,” he said.

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