A desperate search for survivors is still ongoing after a gas leak caused an explosion that wiped out large parts of the popular Saratoga Hotel in Havana. The explosion killed 22 people and more than 70 people were hospitalized.
Before the blast, guests reported hearing something that sounded like ‘a bomb’ just moments before the eruption ripped through the 19th century-built hotel, the US Sun reported.
A tank truck parked outside the hotel is believed to have caught fire, subsequently exploding and destroying several floors of the building.
As of this writing, 22 people have died, either in the blast or from injuries caused by the blast, and 74 people have been hospitalized. Among those who died were a pregnant woman and at least one child.
Children attending school next to the hotel were quickly evacuated and no injuries were reported among its students.
Local reports claim that foreigners vacationing in Cuba are still trapped on the top floor of the hotel as it continues to collapse.
After visiting the site, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel ruled out the possibility that it was an attack or a bombing.
Diaz-Canel instead suggested the explosion was caused by a gas leak, consistent with the findings of initial investigations.
Footage taken by Cuban residents of the area shows the injured desperately seeking safety and medical attention, as reports confirm that many witnesses to the tragedy worked to save victims under the rouble.
Local police and firefighters began searching for bodies and survivors in the ruins.
Adjacent buildings on the same block as the Saratoga Hotel were also devastated by the blast, which reportedly shook buildings in surrounding streets. Buses, cars and other vehicles parked outside the hotel were destroyed in the blast.
Michael Figueroa, a Cuban photographer, said he was “thrown to the ground” by the force of the blast as he walked down the street.
The hotel was due to reopen in four days after the COVID-19 pandemic. Today it is in ruins and much of its exterior wall and facades have been erased.
Marcelo Ebrard, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, said: “Our solidarity with the victims and those affected as well as with the people of this dear brotherly nation”.