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Cuba: Deadly explosion devastates Havana hotel

May 7, 2022

A blast has ripped off parts of the facade of the Saratoga Hotel in central Havana, killing 27 people. A gas leak is the suspected cause.

Red Cross and rescue teams wait to enter the site of a deadly explosion that destroyed the five-star Hotel Saratoga, in Havana, Cuba
Search operations are still ongoing following the blast at the five-star venueImage: Ramon Espinosa/AP/picture alliance

Deadly blast rocks Havana hotel

The death toll from a massive explosion that ripped through the Saratoga Hotel in central Havana rose to 27 on Saturday evening, health authorities said.

This revises a figure of 18 fatalities given on Friday, when the blast occurred, by the Cuban government.

What we know about the blast

 At least 81 people were injured, Dr. Julio Guerra Izquierdo, chief of hospital services at the Health Ministry, told reporters on Saturday evening.  

The injured included at least 14 children, according to the government's statement on Friday.

The office of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the blast was due to a gas leak. The Cuban president has ruled out a bombing as the cause of the explosion. 

"It's not a bomb or an attack. It is a tragic accident," Diaz-Canel said.

 Roberto Calzadilla, of state company Gaviota, which owns the hotel, said the explosion happened while a gas tank was being refilled during renovations that were to be concluded by Tuesday.

Ambulances seen outside the hotel
Ambulances raced to the scene following the explosionImage: ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP

Rescue operations ongoing

Diaz-Canel visited the blast site along with other Cuban leaders. 

Police have cordoned off the blast area, with rescue operations still underway on Saturday. Cuban state media reported that the hotel was closed, and only employees were inside the building at the time of the blast.

A nearby school was also evacuated after the explosion.

What have the global reactions been?

Reacting to reports that a Spanish tourist was among the people killed and another Spanish citizen was injured in the explosion, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote of "tragic news" on Twitter.

"All our love to their families and those of all the victims and injured. Our support also to the Cuban people," he added.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard also expressed solidarity to the victims and people affected by the blast on Twitter. 

The US Embassy in Havana called on Americans to avoid the affected area and notify loved ones of their well-being.

The Hotel Saratoga's building in Old Havana dates back to the 19th century. The five-star hotel has 96 rooms and several bars and restaurants.

The hotel has in the past hosted celebrities such as Madonna, Beyonce, Mick Jagger and Rihanna.

tj,rm,wd/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)