Explosion in a hotel in Cuba leaves 27 dead and the search for survivors continues

A body recovered this Saturday from the rubble of the Hotel Saratoga, an emblematic building in Havana hit on Friday by a powerful explosion, raised the provisional death toll from the tragedy to 27.

“A new deceased is reported, who was rescued at the scene, therefore the figure rises to 27,” Julio Guerra, head of Hospital Services of the Ministry of Health, said at a press conference. He specified that it is a 57-year-old woman.

Various independent Cuban media reported 19 missing persons, and even published a list with their names and contact numbers. The authorities specified that there were 19 families who went to inquire about their relatives at a command post set up for that purpose.

Four children and teenagers died in the blast, which partially destroyed the hotel that was undergoing renovations and was due to reopen on May 10.

Guerra specified that of the 81 registered wounded, 37 were still hospitalized this Saturday.

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Although there were no tourists inside the hotel, which had been closed for two years due to the pandemic, workers and employees were preparing the facility for its reopening, scheduled for next Tuesday.

“At the time of the accident, 51 workers were working in the institution”, of “them we have known so far the death of 11 workers, 13 reported missing, six hospitalized, and the rest managed to leave the facility, in some cases only with minor injuries,” Roberto Enríquez Calzadilla, spokesman for the tourist group Gaviota, of the Armed Forces, which manages the hotel, said at a press conference.

– “You have to move forward” –

Among the deceased is also a 29-year-old Spanish tourist, who was walking nearby, whose husband was seriously injured. Another Cuban-American tourist was also injured, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

“Tragic news reaches us from Cuba. A Spanish tourist has died and another Spanish citizen is seriously injured after the explosion of the Saratoga hotel,” the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, said on Twitter. “All our love for their families and those of all the victims and wounded. Our support also for the Cuban people,” he added.

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“My daughter works there, in the Saratoga. She has been there since yesterday (Friday) at eight in the morning and these are the hours that I don’t know anything about her,” Yaumara Cobas explained to journalists. “She is not in the morgue” or “in the hospital,” she noted.

A search of the upper floors of the hotel turned up no bodies or survivors, a firefighter at the scene said. He explained that the search was now focused on the ground floor, the basement and the sub-basement of the facility, access to which is complicated by the large amount of debris, AFP journalists confirmed.

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