At least 121 people were injured on Saturday when a massive lightning-induced fire in two oil storage tanks in the Cuban city of Matanzas went out of control, according to the Cuban Ministry of Health.
The Department of Public Health said 36 injured were still in hospital Saturday night, five in critical condition and three in critical condition. At least 17 people are missing, according to Cuban state television.
Lightning was reported Friday night. It hit a tank and started a fire that lasted a second, officials said.
About 1,300 people living near the fire at the Matanzas supertanker base have been evacuated and another 600 workers have been told to leave, the office of President Miguel Diaz-Canel said.
It said five communities near Matanzas, about 100 miles east of Havana, were actively protecting it from the fires.
More ambulances were rushed to the scene to care for anyone injured, the office said.
Cuba’s Ministry of Energy and Mines said Saturday morning that lightning was to blame, and the government later released a satellite map showing a bright red cloud of thunderstorms, also known as Matanzas, over the province.
A plume of black smoke rose over the province on Saturday, and forecasters said the smoke could spread to Key West, Florida.
The U.S. embassy in Cuba said federal law authorized the U.S. response, including disaster relief. It said U.S. officials had been in constant contact with Cuban authorities.
superior TwitterDíaz-Canel thanks the countries that helped.
“We express our deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, who have provided timely material assistance in solidarity in the face of this complex situation,” he said.
“We also appreciate the technical advice provided by the United States,” the president added.
The two tanks that caught fire were part of a storage facility, along with six other tanks, all used as fuel for power generation.
orlando matos and Associated Press contributed.