Tuesday, 14 May, 2024

Death toll from Cuba hotel blast rises to 43



Rescue workers comb through vast piles of rubble from the Hotel Saratoga, uncovering three more bodies after the hotel was hit by an explosion, officials say.

The luxury property is known for having hosted celebrities such as Madonna, Beyonce, Mick Jagger and Rihanna.
The luxury property is known for having hosted celebrities such as Madonna, Beyonce, Mick Jagger and Rihanna. (AP)

Three more bodies have been pulled from the rubble of a Havana hotel that was destroyed days earlier in an explosion, taking the death toll to 43.

The ministry of health said on Tuesday another 54 people were wounded and 17 of those are receiving hospital treatment.

The latest confirmed deaths included a 77-year-old woman and a popular local councilor.

Juan Carlos Diaz, 55, was held in high regard by local residents for his efforts to improve their lives.

"We felt everyone's pain but especially his because he worked as a delegate in the moments that were necessary," Havana resident Lazara Phinney told the AFP news agency.

A third body recovered later on Tuesday was still in the process of being identified, authorities said.

Gas tank blast

The luxury Saratoga hotel in the old quarter of Havana was destroyed on Friday morning, seemingly due to a gas leak.

The five-star hotel was being renovated at the time and had no guests. It had been closed for two years, initially due to the coronavirus pandemic that decimated Cuba's vital tourism industry.

But it had been due to reopen on Tuesday.

Roberto Enrique Calzadilla, a representative of the state Gaviota company that owned the hotel, said there were 51 workers on the site at the time of the explosion.

Of them, 23 died, three survivors are receiving hospital treatment, 22 are safe and three more are missing.

Preliminary assessments indicate that 80 percent of the hotel has been affected by the blast.

The explosion, which an official said happened while a gas tank was being refilled by a tanker truck, tore off large parts of the facade, blew out windows and destroyed cars parked outsidethe hotel.

The first four floors of the hotel were gutted.

The luxury property is known for having hosted celebrities such as Madonna, Beyonce, Mick Jagger and Rihanna.

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