Matanzas, Cuba Firefighters finally overcame what officials described as the worst fire in Cuba's history, which over five days destroyed 40% of the Caribbean island's main fuel storage facility and caused massive blackouts.
Reuters witnesses reported that the raging flames that ravaged a four-tank segment of the Matanzas super tanker port had died down and the towering plumes of thick black smoke streaming from the area were diminished and now mostly gray.
Mexican and Cuban firefighters work to put out the fire at the fuel depot that was sparked by a lightning strike.
On Friday night, a fuel storage tank was hit by lightning. The fire spread to a second by Sunday and engulfed the four-tank area on Monday, despite efforts by local firefighters supported by more than 100 Mexican and Venezuelan reinforcements.
Firefighter Rafael Perez GarrigaPerez Garriga told Reuters he was worried that the fire would affect the power situation in the country.
The situation is going to be more difficult. If the thermoelectric plants are supplied with that oil, we are going to have the whole world affected, because it is electricity and it affects everything, he said.
More helicopters joined in the effort to put out the fire, along with two fireboats sent by Mexico along with heavy firefighting equipment.
We have not been able to access the impact area due to the conditions. Perez said around noon that there is combustion and so we can't risk our lives for now.
Later in the day, firefighters for the first time were entering the area and spraying foam and water on the still smoldering remains.
Today we have managed to control the fire, said Rolando Vecino, head of transport for the Ministry of the Interior, on state-owned television from the scene.
Officials have not said how much fuel has been lost in the fire that destroyed all four tanks. The authorities stated that no oil had contaminated the nearby Matanzas Bay. The residents as far away as Havana were warned to wear face masks and avoid acid rain due to the massive amount of smoke the fire generated.
One firefighter died and 14 went missing on Saturday when the second tank blew up, authorities said on Tuesday, correcting an earlier figure of 16 missing. Five others are in critical condition.
Mario Sabines, governor of Matanzas province, about 60 miles 130 km from Havana, poured the flames from one tank to the next like an Olympic torch, turning each into a caldron.