17 missing, 121 injured after lightning strikes Cuban oil tanks

A massive fire that struck two oil storage tanks in the Cuban city of Matanzas spiraled out of control on Saturday and injured at least 121, according to the country’s health ministry.

The Public Health Ministry said 36 of the injured remained hospitalized on Saturday evening, five of them in critical condition and three in critical condition. At least 17 people are missing, according to Cuban state television.

Lightning was reported on Friday night. Officials said it hit a tank and caught fire that spread within a second.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s office said about 1,300 people living near the fire at Matanzas supertanker base had been evacuated, as well as an additional 600 workers were asked to leave.

It said five surrounding areas of Matanzas, about 100 miles east of Havana, are being actively protected from the effects of the fire.

The office said additional ambulances have responded to the scene to care for any injured persons.

People watch a huge plume of smoke rise as a fire breaks out at Matanzas Supertanker Base on Saturday, August 6, 2022 in Matanzas, Cuba.
People watch a huge plume of smoke rise as a fire breaks out at the Matanzas supertanker base in Matanzas, Cuba, on Saturday.Ramon Espinosa / AP

Cuba’s Ministry of Energy and Mines said Saturday morning that lightning was the culprit, and the government later released a satellite map showing a bright red cloud of thunderstorms, also known as Matanzas, in the province.

A black plume of smoke rose over the province on Saturday, and forecasters said it was possible the smoke could reach Key West, Florida.

The US embassy in Cuba said federal law authorizes the US response, including disaster relief. It said US officials are in contact with Cuban officials.

Feather TwitterDiaz-Canel thanked countries that have offered help.

“We express our deepest gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, who have offered material assistance in solidarity to confront this complex situation,” he said.

“We also appreciate the offer of technical advice from the US,” the president said.

The two tanks on fire were part of a storage facility with six other tanks, all used as fuel for power generation.

orlando matoso And The Associated Press contribution,

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