Havana, May 6 (EFE).- The death toll from an explosion at Havana’s Hotel Saratoga stands at 18, the Cuban government said Friday evening.
The fatalities include a child and a pregnant woman, President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s office said on Twitter.
More than a score of the 64 people admitted to hospitals with injuries from the blast were listed in serious or critical condition.
Diaz-Canel, who rushed to the Saratoga after the blast, was quick to rule out foul play.
“There has been no bomb nor attack, it’s a regrettable accident,” he said at the scene in the wake of the explosion, which took place just before 11:00 am as a tanker truck was delivering liquefied natural gas to the hotel.
Authorities say it appears the blast was caused by a leak of some of the highly flammable fuel during the transfer process.
The explosion gutted the lower half of the six-story hotel in Old Havana and tons of rubble littered the street below, partially burying the tanker truck.
Children at a nearby school were evacuated safe and sound, the ruling Cuban Communist Party said.
Diaz-Canel, who visited hospitals treating the injured, praised the work of first responders and health care workers and hailed Cubans for flocking to blood-banks after authorities appealed for donations.
The Saratoga first opened its doors in 1933 in a neoclassical structure dating from 1880. The building underwent a major restoration in 2005.
With a five-star rating, the Saratoga is one of Havana’s most luxurious hotels.
Gaviota, the state-run company that operates the Saratoga, said that only employees and company executives were inside the hotel at the time of the blast, which came amid preparations to re-open for guests after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. EFE