One dead, 125 injured in Cuba oil tank fire

One dead, 125 injured in Cuba oil tank fire

HAVANA - A deadly fire that began at a large oil storage facility in western Cuba spread Monday after flames enveloped a third tank that firefighters tried to cool as they tried to fight the massive blaze.

At least one person has died and 125 are injured, with dozens of firefighters reported missing since lighting struck one of the facility's eight tanks on Friday night. A second tank caught fire on Saturday, triggering several explosions.

Mario Sabines, the governor of the western province of Matanzas, said the risk we had announced happened and the blaze of the second tank compromised the third one.

Firefighters had sprayed water on the remaining tanks over the weekend to cool them and try to stop the fire from spreading.

The governments of Mexico and Venezuela have sent special teams to help extinguish the fire, with water cannons, planes and helicopters fighting the fire from several directions as military constructions specialists erected barriers to contain oil spills. Local officials warned residents to use face masks or stay indoors because of the billowing smoke enveloping the region that can be seen from the capital of Havana, located more than 65 miles 100 kilometers away. Officials have warned that the cloud contains sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and other poisonous substances.

The majority of those who were injured have been treated for burns and smoke inhalation, and five of them are in critical condition. A total of 24 remain hospitalized. Over the weekend, authorities found the body of a firefighter as relatives of those still missing gathered at a hotel to wait for news about their loved ones.

Sabines and Cuban President Miguel D az-Canel said it was impossible to search for the missing firefighters due to the roiling temperatures.

The blaze at Matanzas Supertanker Base in Matanzas caused officials to evacuate more than 4,900 people, most of them from the nearby Dubrocq neighborhood. The facility's eight huge tanks hold oil used to generate electricity, although it wasn't clear how much fuel has been lost as a result of the flames. The first tank that caught fire was at 50% capacity and contained nearly 883,000 cubic feet 25,000 cubic meters of fuel.

The blaze comes as Cuba struggles through a deep economic crisis and faces frequent power outages amid a sweltering summer. Officials haven't provided a preliminary estimate of damages.