Disasters & Accidents

Fatalities from Cuba hotel blast reach 46

Havana, May 13 (EFE).- Another person has died of injuries received in the May 6 explosion at Havana’s Hotel Saratoga, bringing the total number of fatalities to 46, the Cuban government said Friday.

Thirteen people remain hospitalized, while 40 others have been treated and released, according to figures from the health ministry.

With the exception of Spanish tourist Cristina Lopez-Ceron Ugarte, Cubans account for all of the dead, including four minors and a pregnant woman.

Cuban authorities formally ended the search and rescue operation on Thursday after teams found the body of the last person still listed as missing.

Gaviota, the state-run tourism 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 on May 10 after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Authorities determined that the blast was caused by a leak of liquefied natural gas as the highly flammable fuel was being transferred from a delivery truck to the hotel’s storage tank.

The explosion gutted the lower half of the six-story hotel in La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and tons of rubble littered the street below.

La Habana Vieja’s mayor, Alexis Acosta, said that with the search operation concluded, work will begin on repairing the Saratoga and the 17 neighboring buildings that also suffered damage in the explosion.

Friday marked the start of two days of official mourning declared by President Miguel Diaz-Canel and a vigil was planned for late afternoon in Friendship Park, across the street from the hotel.

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. EFE jpm/dr

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