Cuba, with the cooperation of Mexico and Venezuela, is making progress in controlling a fire in its main fuel storage facility, which has caused the death of a firefighter and has left 16 missing in the middle of the flames.
Lightning struck one of the eight fuel storage tanks at the Matanzas facility, located about 130 kilometers east of Havana, on Friday. Authorities have reported more than 4,500 evacuees in the area near the site.
The head of the Communist Party in Matanzas, Susely Morfa, told local journalists that “there are no flames at this time, only white smoke is emanating,” alluding to the first fuel tank that was struck by lightning last Friday.
The second tank -he said- is still burningwhile a third, which officials feared would explode on Saturday night, “is being cooled with water at intervals, in order to maintain an adequate temperature that prevents the combustion of gases.”
More than 100 people, many of them rescuers, were injured. -mainly due to the second explosion- of which 24 remain hospitalized, five in critical condition, according to local health authorities.
“We are facing an event that is not casual in the country. It is a fire of high proportion (…), very difficult to control in Cuba where there are not all the means that are required, there is not all the technology and therefore we are counting on technical advice (…)”, said President Miguel Díaz- Cinnamon.
“The help is important, I would say it is vital and it is going to be decisive (…),” he told state television.
Military and civilian personnel from Mexico, as well as firefighters and technicians from Venezuela, with experience in handling fires caused by fuel, are cooperating with Cuban personnel and have transported foam, equipment and other fire-retardant chemical products to control the fire that is still it spreads.
Jorge Piñon, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Energy and Environment Program at the University of Texas at Austin, said each tank at the facility could store 300,000 barrels and provide fuel for power plants.
Cuba has been suffering from daily blackouts and fuel shortages. The loss of fuel and storage capacity is likely to aggravate the situation that has led to small local protests in recent months.