Cuban Government Confirms the Third Fuel Tank Collapsed in Matanzas

Moment when the fire reaches the third tank of the Matanzas Supertanker Base, on Sunday night (@SantanaMiriel/Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 August 2022 — “The fire has taken on a greater magnitude; four tanks are already compromised,” Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Avalos of the Cuban Fire Department said at a press conference on Monday afternoon. The military said that they’re working to prevent the spread of fire to other areas of the Matanzas Supertanker Base, such as a nearby depot that contains reserves of other fuels. Extinguishing the fire can take days.

The fire that has been devouring the Supertanker Base since Friday worsened on Sunday night when it reached a third fuel tank after explosions in the second. The provincial governor himself, Mario Felipe Sabines Lorenzo, confirmed on Monday morning that the third tank collapsed.

Official media, as well as private users, broadcast live through social networks the moment when, before midnight, a gigantic flash emerged from the affected tanks and, instantly, a column of fire reached several tens of meters.

A few minutes earlier, announcer Humberto López, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, welcomed the fact that the first tank set on fire, as a result of lightning, according to the official version, was “without flames,” only emanating “white smoke.” That fire was extinguished when all the national crude oil contained in the tank was consumed.

The strategy to combat the flames, which included cooling the tanks with sea water with the help of Mexico and Venezuela, was unsuccessful.

This morning, Cubadebate reported, a Venezuelan rig arrived at the scene of the accident to pump a chemical agent over the fire. On Sunday, 35 firefighters, specialists and PDVSA technicians arrived from the Caribbean country with 20 tons of foam and other chemicals. Likewise, a Boeing 737 of the Mexican Air Force also landed on Sunday with 60 rescue soldiers and 16 technicians from Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

Sabines Lorenzo admitted that the fire was revived when the second tank collapsed and the fuel it contained was spilled. Neither authorities nor official journalists mentioned the word “explosion” at any time.

Nor have they made public the list of those who are missing in the accident. Only one body, that of firefighter Juan Carlos Santana Garrido, 60 years old and originally from Cienfuegos, was found and identified. The Government has already warned that the recovery of bodies will not begin until the flames are extinguished.

The Matanzas Supertanker Base, in Cuba, near the Antonio Guiteras Thermoelectric Power Plant, before the fire started on Friday. (Google Earth)

Despite all of them being called firefighters by government sources, many of them are 18- and 19-year-olds who were fulfilling their military service, as evidenced by the desperate calls of relatives on social networks.

Among the names of the missing are Fabián Naranjo Núñez, Osmany Blanco Sosa, Andy Amarilys Ramos, Adrián Rodríguez and Leo Alejandro Doval Pérez de Prado.

For its part, this Sunday, the Ministry of Public Health reported that there are 122 injured, of whom five remain in critical condition, three are in serious condition and 16 are receiving care. The others were discharged.

About 5,000 people have been evicted from villages near the industrial complex, which houses a total of eight tanks of 50,000 cubic meters (50 million liters) each. Stored in one of the eight tanks in the port of Matanzas, are 700,000 barrels of fuel oil were sent by Russia in June.

Russia is one of the countries which the Cuban government asked for help. “Cuba requested national assistance after the disaster that hit the country,” María Zajarova, spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement, adding that “the competent entities are in constant contact with the Cuban side to coordinate possible joint actions and provide the necessary assistance.”

The United States declared on Saturday that its law “authorizes U.S. entities and organizations to provide aid and response to disasters in Cuba” and that it is “in contact” with the Cuban authorities.

The smoke from the fire reaches not only the entire province of Matanzas, but also Pinar del Río and Havana, more than 100 kilometers away, where, since Friday, the air clearly smells of oil.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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