Fire in the Railway Workshops in Luyano, in the Cuban Capital

The Rail Union confirmed that the fire in the Luyanó workshops was caused by a short-circuit. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 December 2022 — The fire in the Francisco Vega Sánchez rail maintenance workshops in Luyanó, Havana, on Thursday night was put out by the fire service. Pictures on social media showed huge clouds of smoke and flames coming from the building, as well as electric sparks caused by the fire reaching the electricity grid.

The Cuban Rail Union confirmed that the accident occurred at 6:00 pm and was caused by a short-circuit in the workshop’s transformer bank. The Fire Service, police (Policía Nacional Revolucionaria, PNR) and workers from the site all participated in extinguishing the blaze.

“There was no loss of life during the incident, nor any real material damage”, reported the organisation in a short statement on social media.

Fires are not a rare occurrence in the ailing Cuban rail system and in the last month alone there have been two other fire incidents in other locations. The most recent one was at 6:00 pm on Sunday of last week in a locomotive which was making its way between south Santa Cruz and Camagüey. The independent news outlet Hora de Cuba released video of passengers fleeing from their wagon as flames reached it.

One of the passengers told them that the train stopped “in the middle of nowhere” and that straightaway rail workers began to ask all passengers to collect their belongings and leave the train. There has been no word as yet from the authorities giving any details of the causes or damage created by the accident.

There was also a fire in a train wagon carrying tobacco leaves from Pinar del Río at the end of November. The government had used the rail system for moving a part of the crop which was still undergoing its drying process — the part which had escaped damage from hurricane Ian — though that catastrophic weather event had left in pieces the tobacco processing infrastructure that was necessary for producing the best habanero cigars in the world.

The railway system currently finds itself in a terrible condition, with breakages in tracks, bridges and gradient crossings, as well as wear and tear in locomotive stock, which itself is a cause of the easy spread of fire.

The last attempt at renovating the rail system was made known in October when the government announced an agreement between the Railway Union and Beijing Fanglian Technology — by which a Chinese company would gradually begin to take up the renovation of the rail infrastructure. This new chapter of cooperation includes the restoration of workshops and locomotives in the Mariel Special Development Zone, as well as the importing of spare parts.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


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