At least 121 injured in Cuba's Matanzas tank fire

At least 121 injured in Cuba's Matanzas tank fire

A massive, lightning-sparked fire feeding on two oil storage tanks in the Cuban city of Matanzas raged out of control Saturday and injured at least 121, according to the country's health ministry.

The Ministry of Public Health said 36 of the injured were hospitalized Saturday evening, five of whom were in critical condition. According to Cuban state television, 17 people were missing.

The lightning was reported Friday night. Officials said it struck a tank and sparked a fire that spread to a second.

The office of President Miguel D az-Canel said about 1,300 people living near the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base have been evacuated, with an additional 600 workers told to leave.

Five nearby neighborhoods in Matanzas, located about 100 miles east of Havana, are being protected from the fire's impacts, it said.

The office said additional ambulances have been dispatched to the scene to take care of any injured people.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines of Cuba said Saturday morning that lightning was the culprit, and the government later released a satellite map showing a red cloud of thunderstorm activity over the province, also called Matanzas.

On Saturday a black plume of smoke rose over the province, and forecasters said it was possible that smoke could reach as far as Key West, Florida.

The U.S. Embassy in Cuba said that federal law authorizes an American response, including disaster relief. It said U.S. officials have been in touch with Cuban authorities.

The countries that have offered help were thanked on Twitter by D az-Canel.

He said that they have since offered material aid in solidarity in the face of this complex situation and expressed deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile.

The president added that they were grateful for the offer of technical advice from the US.

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