A fire at an oil storage facility in Matanzas brought bad news to Cuba this summer, already facing a major energy crisis Which has fueled anti-government protests and a migrant exodus in the United States.
Since then at least 67 people have been injured and hundreds of residents have been displaced. Several explosions rocked the port of Matanzas Saturday in Cuba. Seventeen firefighters are said to be missing.
The fire started around 7 pm on Friday, when Lightning struck a crude oil storage tank In the unloading area in the port.
The tank was half capacity with 25,000 cubic meters of Cuban crude. Firefighters working to control the situation could not stop the flames from spreading to another tank containing 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil.
The Ministry of Transport suspended all activities at the port of Matanzas, and all ships were rerouted to disembark at the port of Havana.
Wasted oil, a precious commodity for the cash-strapped island, and disruption of operations at the port could worsen an already volatile situation, as the island already grapples with a power blackout.
The state’s Cuban Electrical Union said Friday electricity demand exceeded the generation capacity of Cuba’s electricity grid by 995 megawatts, causing power outages throughout the day.
Power cuts continue as the grid is currently operating at about a third of its capacity. The island’s power stations are old and many units are not operational or in need of immediate maintenance.
Another fire at a power station in the eastern province of Holguin in July ended any hope of avoiding a blackout during the summer.
Domestic oil production covers only a portion of the island’s electricity demand, so the government has relied on oil shipped by Venezuela and Russia to cover the rest.
Tens of thousands of barrels of oil are imported daily – and they come into the port of Matanzas.
On 18 July, a Russian ship unloaded 700,000 barrels of fuel oil at the port facility.
The daily blackout has led to several protests across the island. Residents of cities and towns have taken to the streets during the evening blackouts to complain of power cuts. But Cuban officials have said the blackout will continue.