14ymedio, Havana, 6 May 2022 — The Cuban government lamented, this Friday afternoon, the death of 22 people, “including a pregnant woman and a child” due to the explosion of the Saratoga hotel in Havana.
In a press conference held by the medical authorities, it was detailed that there are three children in critical condition, two in serious condition and nine are in care. In hospital institutions there are 42 hospitalized adults, 18 of them in serious or critical condition.
The medical report also indicates that of the 56 injured reported so far, ten adults and three children have undergone surgery.
After a preliminary report from a meeting with the main leaders of the country, the authorities said that they are focused “on the care of the people, the relatives of the deceased and also those who are hospitalized.”
At the meeting, presided over by Miguel Díaz-Canel, the situation associated with the explosion was updated, the Cuban Presidency reported on its Twitter account, adding that “work continues to assess the state of the hotel structures and surrounding buildings.”
The explosion, which occurred this Friday morning around 10:50, has destroyed the Saratoga hotel, in Old Havana. The neighboring residential building is seriously damaged and the nearby school has lost its doors and windows.
A small shop on the ground floor of the hotel was reduced to rubble.
The official media report that the injured were taken to the Hermanos Ameijeiras, Calixto García, Manuel Fajardo and Miguel Enríquez hospitals. In addition, 13 people are missing. Five elementary school children were slightly injured.
Díaz-Canel went to the scene, accompanied by the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, and the President of the National Assembly, Esteban Lazo.
The causes of the event are unknown. It destroyed several floors of the building, located very close to the Capitol, but the Cuban government says that it took place while liquefied gas was being loaded. “Liquefied gas was being supplied to the hotel. The cook smells gas, checks the connections and discovers that there was a crack in the supply hose,” Cubadebate published based on a source: Alexis Acosta Silva, mayor of Old Havana.
In the afternoon, a news special on Cuban television showed how the wrecked vehicle was removed from the rubble.
The Saratoga was closed for repairs and its reopening was scheduled for this coming Tuesday, May 10. One of the sinister hypotheses received by a hotel employee by 14ymedio is that oxygen tanks that were being used in welding inside the works exploded.
The president of the Provincial Defense Council, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, said forcefully that “we are talking about an accident” of which “the causes are being investigated” and that “we are not talking about an attack or anything like that.”
The official website Cubadebate, which had suggested that the events could be due to the “transfer of liquefied gas from a truck”, reports five dead and 25 injured, as a “preliminary” count of victims. The hospitals that are receiving the wounded are Hermanos Ameijeiras, Calixto García, Manuel Fajardo and Miguel Enríquez.
State Security deployed an operation to try to remove the hundreds of onlookers who were crowding the Parque de la India, given the risk of the structure collapsing, and several residents of the neighborhood reported the internet service being cut off.
The area is one of the busiest in Havana, with several bus stops and a constant movement of people, many of them tourists. Around the affected building, in addition, there are numerous properties that are in a dire state. The detonation reached premises located several blocks away, such as on Monte Street, where broken glass was observed.
From the tall buildings of Nuevo Vedado, in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, where the noise was heard loudly, the smoke could be seen. Instantly, sirens from firefighters and military vehicles sounded in the area.
The Saratoga, founded in 1933, is one of the most emblematic hotels in the city. Located in a 19th century building, it was last restored in 2005 and is categorized with five stars. Decorated in art deco style, numerous personalities who have visited the island have stayed there, such as Madonna, Beyoncé and high-ranking officials from other countries.
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.