Lightning struck a crude oil storage tank in the city of Matanzas, causing a fire that led to four explosions which injured more than 50 people, Cuban authorities said Saturday.
Firefighters and other specialists were still trying to quell the blaze at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, which began during a thunderstorm Friday night, the Ministry of Energy and Mines tweeted.
The official Cuban News Agency said the lightning strike set one tank on fire and the blaze later spread to a second tank.
The accident comes as Cuba struggles with fuel shortages. There was no immediate word on how much oil had burned or was in danger at the tank farm, which stores oil used to fuel electricity production.
A column of smoke and a sulphur smell
Officials at Faustino Perez Hospital reported 52 injured, according to the provincial government’s Facebook page. The hospital’s director, Dr. Taymi Martinez, said one person was in extremely critical condition, three patients were in critical condition and 10 in serious conditions.
“I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and terrible fire rose through the skies,” resident Adiel Gonzalez told The Associated Press by phone.
“The city has a strong smell of sulphur.”
Authorities said the Dubrocq neighborhood closest to the fire was evacuated, while Gonzalez added that some people decided to leave the Versailles district, which is a little farther from the tank farm.
There were many ambulances, police and fire engines, he said.
Matanzas, which has about 140,000 inhabitants, is about 100 kilometres from Havana, on Matanzas Bay.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel travelled to the area of the fire early Saturday, officials said.