At least 22 dead in Havana hotel explosion

Four bodies were pulled from the rubble early in the evening, the television news said, an hour after an official toll booth was announced with 18 dead, including a child. Authorities said survivors were under the rubble and sent a team of dogs to search for them, including a woman with whom rescuers had been in contact.

A little earlier, the director of the Calixto Garcia hospital, where some of the injured are being treated, reported that 11 of them were “in an extremely serious condition”.

The hotel under construction, with its green facade, is an emblematic facility of Old Havana and was closed to tourists for two years. Only staff were inside to prepare for the reopening scheduled for May 10th.

“According to initial information, the explosion was caused by a gas leak,” the Cuban Presidency’s Twitter account said.

“An Unfortunate Accident”

According to the person in charge of the historical district of the Cuban capital, quoted by the state media Cubadebate, a liquid gas cylinder was changed at the hotel. The cook smelled gas and spotted a crack in the pipe, which caused the explosion.

“It was neither a bomb nor an attack. It was an unfortunate accident,” said President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who arrived on the scene shortly afterwards to put an end to rumors on social media that provoked the bombings that happened in several hotels in the 1990s, sponsored by Cubans exiles.

Washington, through State Department spokesman Ned Price, sent its “sincere condolences” to all those affected by the tragic explosion.

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said on Twitter that he had spoken to Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez “to take an interest in the situation after the explosion in Havana and to send him my condolences and solidarity with the Cuban people.” .

Blow up four floors

The first four floors of the 5-star, 96-room Saratoga hotel with its two restaurants and rooftop pool were blown up in the blast at approximately 11:00 a.m. (5:00 p.m. in Switzerland). and the ground was littered with debris and broken glass, AFP journalists noted.

A few minutes after the explosion, a thick cloud of smoke and dust spread over the Avenue du Prado, where this bar is located, a stone’s throw from the famous Capitol.

There was “a huge” explosion and “a cloud of dust that reached the park. Lots of people ran out,” Rogelio Garcia, driver of a pedicab that passed in front of the Saratoga at the time of the tragedy, told AFP.

“There was a terrible explosion and everything collapsed,” said a dust-covered woman who declined to give her name.

The hotel is known for having hosted several celebrities in recent years, including Mick Jagger, Beyoncé, and Madonna. Built in 1880 for shops, the building was converted into a hotel in 1933 and upgraded to a luxury hotel in 2005.

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