Second oil tank collapses during serious fire in Cuba

A second oil tanker collapsed at midnight on Sunday in Matanzas, in western Cuba, where firefighters have been battling a gigantic fire for two days, which has left one dead and 16 missing, local authorities reported.

“Tank number 2 has just collapsed, it is not yet specified if the lid of tank 3 was ejected with the explosion,” at the supertanker fuel base, the provincial government of People’s Power of Matanzas reported on its Facebook page. a city 105 kilometers from Havana.

The large-scale incident began on Friday at 7:00 p.m. local time when lightning struck a tank, which is part of a fuel storage plant in which there were a total of eight huge tanks.

The first tank contained 26,000 cubic meters of crude, about 50% of its maximum capacity. During the early hours of Saturday this large cylinder with a concave lid collapsed and the fire spread to a second tank containing 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil. The latter collapsed at midnight on Sunday.

The Cuban presidency confirmed that it is “an oil spill from the second tank” and that the third has not collapsed.

The two damaged tanks were together and the authorities have feared since Saturday that the fire will spread to a third tank.

Given this risk “the forces that worked in the place had been evacuated” on Sunday night, said the provincial government of Matanzas.

According to the last medical report, released before the collapse, the balance is one dead, while 24 people remain hospitalized, five of them in critical condition.

The 16 people reported missing are “firefighters who were in the area closest” to the fire, the presidency reported Saturday.

The body of firefighter Juan Carlos Santana, 60, located on Saturday, was buried this Sunday with honors in his native town of Rodas, in the neighboring province of Cienfuegos.

Relatives of the disappeared met with President Miguel Díaz-Canel in a central hotel in Matanzas, where they are assisted by doctors and psychologists in their anguished wait.

“My son did his duty, he took a step forward,” the mother of a 19-year-old firefighter who was at the supertanker base early Saturday morning when the fire started in the second tank told AFP in tears. made out of fuel.

-“All the support”-

Mothers, fathers and other relatives wait for news about their loved ones in the lobby of the Velasco hotel.

“All the support for you and we are here for whatever you need,” the president told them, according to images broadcast on state television.

The tragedy occurs three months after the explosion in Havana of the Saratoga hotel due to a gas leak, which left 46 dead, including a Spanish tourist, and more than 50 injured, as well as the almost total destruction of the central building.

Rosmari Pino, a 22-year-old Red Cross volunteer who spent the night from Friday to Saturday at the base, said that “in the first explosion there were two injuries, but the serious burns were at 05:00 in the morning.”

“Those of us who were below (the base) saw the sky lighting up and we left right away,” adds the young veterinary student, still wearing her red jumpsuit.

-Decisive help-

Authorities coordinated on Sunday with brigade officials from Mexico and Venezuela who arrived on Saturday night to help put out the fire.

Four Mexican planes and one Venezuelan plane landed at the airport of the famous resort of Varadero, about 40 kilometers northeast of Matanzas. The first plane of the Mexican Air Force arrived with 60 soldiers and 16 technicians from Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), followed by another with equipment and chemical products for fire control.

In the early hours of the morning another flight arrived from Venezuela with 35 firefighters, specialists and technicians from Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), who transported 20 tons of foam and other chemicals.

“The help is important, I think it will be decisive,” Díaz-Canel told the press.

The immense column of smoke that had extended to Havana since Friday had begun to subside on Sunday afternoon, before the collapse of tank two.

From an aid post, located about 150 meters from the super tanker base, the group of volunteers from the local Red Cross was waiting, and the fire trucks were constantly leaving towards the area of ​​the fire.


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