Cuba: Major fire in oil storage facility – 17 firefighters missing, minister injured

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More than 120 people, including a Cuban minister, were injured in a fire in a large oil storage facility in the Cuban city of Matanzas. Over a dozen firefighters are reported missing.

At least one person has died in a fire that broke out in the industrial zone of the city of Matanzas on Saturday. More than a dozen firefighters are still missing. At least 121 were injured, including Cuban Minister of Energy and Mines Liván Nicolás Arronte Cruz.

Taking to his Twitter account, the senior official said he was “fine” and would soon be “on the front lines of the fight” again. He wrote:

“We are going through difficult days that we must face with unity, discipline, equanimity and the confidence that we will get through them.”

Among the injured are several journalists who had approached the seat of the fire. In addition, it was confirmed that the deceased was one of the firefighters who were on site to fight the blaze. Seventeen other firefighters are still missing, according to the Cuban Presidential Office.

The victims are being treated at the Faustino Pérez Provincial Hospital in Matanzas, where the Ministry of Health assures that it has “the human and material resources to deal with the emergency”. According to the latest reports, three of the injured are in critical condition and 12 are in serious condition.

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At the same time, the city’s governor, Mario Sabines Lorenzo, announced that about 800 residents of the Dubrocq neighborhood, which is close to the industrial area, had been evacuated.

The fire, which is still burning, broke out after lightning struck amid a storm at a major crude oil storage facility in the city. The crude oil tank was 50 percent full, equivalent to 50,000 cubic meters, said Rigel Rodríguez Cubells, director of the department for marketing fuels in the Matanzas region.

The Cuban Presidential Office said it had asked friendly countries “with experience in the oil sector” for help and advice to deal with the incident.

Hours later, the head of state published a tweet thanking the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile “for promptly offering material and solidarity assistance in the face of this complex situation”. He added, “We are also grateful for the US’s offer of technical assistance.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed that personnel from Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) and the country’s armed forces will travel to Cuba to help fight the fire.

At the same time, Venezuela is also sending help to extinguish the fire. “At the direction of President Nicolás Maduro, a mission of firefighters and technicians (from the Venezuelan state oil company), among the best trained for this type of disaster, is departing to the Republic of Cuba to help extinguish Matanzas,” he wrote Venezuelan Vice President, Tareck El Aissami, on Twitter.

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