A fire in an oil reservoir in the Cuban city of Matanzas has injured 121 people, five of whom are in critical condition, authorities said. Seventeen firefighters went missing, reports news agency AP. The fire started Friday evening after a lightning strike in a huge oil tank. The fire later spread to a second tank.
Firefighters are trying to keep the six intact megatanks wet to prevent the fire from spreading, fire chief Roberto de la Torre said. Military helicopters throw water on the fire.
From the oil depot, a large plume of black smoke spreads west to Havana, more than 100 kilometers away. About 800 people have been evacuated from the nearby Dubrocq neighborhood, authorities said.
According to the Cuban administration, the missing firefighters “tried to prevent the fire from spreading in the nearest area”. The first aid flights from Mexico and Venezuela are expected at Matanzas airport on Saturday evening (local time).
In addition to Mexico and Venezuela, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel also thanked Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile for the help they have offered. He was silent about the US government offering technical assistance in extinguishing the fire.
The fire comes at a time when Cuba is facing a fuel shortage. It has not been said how much oil has gone up in flames or could catch fire. The oil in the eight giant tanks is intended for power generation in power plants.