One person was extracted from the rubble over night after an explosion devastated the Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana.
Published On 7 May 2022
Rescuers in Cuba’s capital Havana continue to search for survivors from the explosion at the five-star Hotel Saratoga that killed more than two dozen people and injured many.
Orestes Llánez, coordinator of the Havana city government, said the death toll from the explosion on Friday had risen to 25 people.
Llánez told the Cubadebate news site on Saturday that 22 victims had been identified so far.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said one of its nationals was among the dead and another is seriously injured. “Tragic news has reached us from Cuba,” Sanchez said on Twitter.
At least one person was extracted from the rubble in the early morning hours of Saturday as rescue workers searched for survivors, Fire Department Lieutenant Colonel Noel Silva said.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel praised Cubans who had rushed to donate blood to help the wounded.
“It is very regrettable what happened, the destruction, especially the loss of life, and also the people injured, but once again I want to highlight the speed with which the population and institutions mobilised,” he tweeted.
Relatives of missing people remained at the site overnight or gathered at hospitals where the injured are being treated.
“I don’t want to move from here,” Cristina Avellar told The Associated Press near the hotel, whose outer walls were blown away by the force of the explosion, leaving the interiors of many rooms exposed.
Julio Guerra Izquierdo, chief of hospital services at the Ministry of Health, said at least 74 people had been injured, including 14 children, according to a tweet from the presidential office.
The emblematic hotel overlooked Havana’s landmark Capitol building, which sustained broken glass and damaged masonry in the explosion while the dome of a nearby Baptist church collapsed.
The hotel was renovated in 2005 as part of the Cuban government’s revival of the Old Havana area and is owned by the Cuban military’s tourism business arm, Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA.
The company said it is investigating the cause of the blast.
In a series of tweets on Friday afternoon, the president’s office said preliminary investigations indicated that a gas leak had caused the explosion.
The first four floors of the hotel, which were gutted by the blast, were closed to guests due to renovations. Employees preparing for a post-refurbishment reopening on Tuesday were inside the building at the time of the explosion.
The Hotel Saratoga has been used by visiting VIPs and political figures, including high-ranking US government delegations and celebrities such as Madonna, Beyonce, Mick Jagger and Rihanna.
Al Jazeera and news agencies