A third crude tank caught raging fire and eventually collapsed at Cuba’s primary oil terminal located in Matanzas as an oil spillage spread the flames from a second crude tank that reportedly caught fire two days ago in the island’s largest oil industry accident that took place in decades.
Gigantic columns of fire kept rising into the sky while thick black smoke bellowed throughout the day on Monday, darkening the sky far away, even in Havana.
Explosions rocked the area before midnight as a tank collapsed and again at noon as one more imploded.
A firefighter has lost his life and 16 individuals went missing following Saturday’s explosion at the second storage tank. A fourth tank was at risk but did not catch the fire.
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Cuba made some progress fighting off flames over the weekend after receiving help from Venezuela and Mexico, but on Sunday the fire started spreading from the second tank that eventually collapsed, said Mario Sabines, the governor of Matanzas which is situated at approximately 130 kilometers from Havana.
Matanzas is Cuba’s largest port receiving fuel imports and crude oil. Cuban heavy crude, fuel oil, and diesel stored in Matanzas, are used for generating electricity on the island.
Sabines reportedly mentioned that flames were spreading like an “Olympic torch” from one tank to the other, transforming each into a “cauldron” encompassing the whole area.
Tackling the scenario was “complicated” as three tanks were blanketed with dense flames and billowing black smoke.
Cuba’s state-run television captured the disaster live from Saturday. President Miguel Diaz-Canel was seen present there throughout, highlighting both the political and economic importance of the incident.
The Communist-run and heavily US-sanctioned country are all but bankrupt. Besides, blackouts and shortages of petrol as well as other commodities had already resulted in a tense situation, with scattered and unpredictable local protests after last summer’s unrest in July.
At Monday noon, authorities declared the country’s most crucial power plant, about a kilometer from the fire, had been shut down owing to low water pressure in that area.
The power grid depends over 90% on imported and local fuel.
The number of people injured at the time of writing is estimated to be 120. As of late Sunday, the Cuban government said 24 remained hospitalized, five were critical and two were in serious conditions.
References: Aljazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Post, The Transcontinental Port Of Augusta