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Cuba’s hotel explosion desperately seeks survivors as deaths increase to at least 26

Missing relatives in the Cuban capital desperately searched for victims on Saturday Exploding in one of Havana’s most luxurious hotels It killed at least 26 people. They checked the morgues and hospitals, and if unsuccessful, returned to the partially collapsed Hotel Saratoga, where rescue teams used dogs to search for survivors.

A natural gas leak was the obvious cause of the Friday explosion at a 96-room hotel. The 19th-century building in the Old Havana district had no guests at the time, as it was undergoing renovations before it was scheduled to reopen after it was closed on Tuesday.

Havana city officials raised the death toll to 26 on Saturday, according to Cubadebate’s official news site. The dead included four children and one pregnant woman. Spain’s President Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter that a Spaniard tourist had died and another Spaniard was seriously injured. Cuban authorities did not provide details regarding the deaths of tourists.

Aftermath of the explosion at Hotel Saratoga in Havana
After an explosion at Hotel Saratoga in Havana, Cuba, on May 6, 2022, rescuers remove the bodies found under the debris.

ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI / REUTERS


The search and rescue team worked from night to Saturday, using ladders to drop rubble and twisted metal into the hotel basement, allowing heavy machinery to gently move and access the piles of the building’s façade. Above, a block of drywall hung from a wire, and the desk sat seemingly undisturbed through a torn gap in the front of the building.

Rescue teams refused to answer the question as authorities ordered to avoid confusion.

At least one survivor was found in the shattered ruins early Saturday, and rescuers using search dogs climbed a huge block of concrete to search further. Relatives of the disappeared remained on the scene, while others gathered at the hospital where the injured were being treated.

Desperate Yatmara Cobas stood outside, waiting for the words of her daughter, 27-year-old housekeeper Shaidis Cobas.

“My daughter is in Saratoga. She’s been there since 8am (Friday), and at this point I don’t know anything about her,” Cobas said. “She is not in her morgue, she is not in the hospital,” her mother went everywhere seeking a response from the authorities, but she said she was empty.

“I’m sick of lying,” she said.

Aftermath of the explosion at Hotel Saratoga in Havana
It depicts shattered rooms, furniture, and debris after an explosion at Hotel Saratoga in Havana, Cuba, on May 6, 2022.

ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI / REUTERS


Lieutenant Colonel Enrique Penha explained the search activity on the scene Saturday morning to Commandante Ramiro Valdes, who fought with Fidel Castro.

According to Penha, human presence was detected on the ground floor and in the basement, and four teams of search dogs and handlers were working. He didn’t know if the victim was alive or dead.

“I don’t want to move from here,” Christina Averer told The Associated Press near the hotel.

Avellar was waiting for the news of Odalys Barrera, a 57-year-old cashier who has been working at the hotel for five years. She is the godfather of Valera’s daughters and thinks of her like her sister.

The day after the explosion, the neighbors were still shocked.

“I thought it was a bomb,” said Guillermo Madan, a 73-year-old retiree who lives just a few meters from the building but is not injured. Residents of the neighborhood for 30 years were cooking and watching TV when they heard the blast. “My room moved from here to there. My neighbor’s window broke, the dishes, everything broke.”

At that time, 31-year-old Caterine Marello was shopping. “I left the store, I felt an explosion,” she said. “Everyone started running.”

No injured tourists have been reported, but the explosion is another blow to the country’s important tourism industry.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic kept tourists away from Cuba, the country was suffering from severe sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump and maintained the Biden administration. Limited visits to the island by US tourists and remittances from Cubans in the United States to Cuban families were restricted.

Tourism has begun to revive somewhat earlier this year, but the war in Ukraine has shrunk the boom of Russian visitors, who make up almost one-third of the tourists who arrived in Cuba last year.

At least 74 people were injured, said Dr. Julio Gera Ischierd, director of hospital services at the Ministry of Health. According to a tweet from President Miguel Diaz Cannell’s office, there were 14 children.

“Brothers and friends around the world. # Havana is in shock today,” he said. Tweet.. He also posted images of rescue teams and dogs on the scene, calling them “heroes.”

Miguel Hernan Estevez, director of Hermanos Arme Jeiras Hospital, said a two-year-old boy had surgery for a skull fracture.

The school of 300 students next to the hotel was evacuated. Habana Governor Reynard Garcia Zapata said five students were slightly injured.

The iconic hotel offers stunning views of central Cuba, including a domed parliament building about 110 yards (100 meters) away. The Capitol was damaged by the explosion, with broken glass and masonry.

The hotel was renovated in 2005 as part of the Cuban government’s revival of Old Havana and is owned by the Cuban military tourism division Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA. The company said it was investigating the cause of the explosion and did not respond to an email from the AP asking for more information about the hotel and the renovations it is making.

In the past, Hotel Saratoga has been used by visiting politicians, including VIPs and senior delegations of the US government. Beyonce and Jay-Z stayed there in 2013.

Garcia Zapata said the structure, including the two severely damaged apartment buildings adjacent to the hotel, was valued. Díaz-Canel said the families in the affected buildings were moved to a safer place.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is expected to arrive in Havana late Saturday, and Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebral said the visit will continue.

AFP contributed to this report.



Cuba’s hotel explosion desperately seeks survivors as deaths increase to at least 26

Source link Cuba’s hotel explosion desperately seeks survivors as deaths increase to at least 26

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