Q24N (DW.com) Cuban officials have confirmed that a third oil tank has collapsed due to a fire spreading through the Matanzas Supertanker Base, leaving the storage facility with five containers still standing.
Military construction crews were building barriers to contain oil spills, while firefighters sprayed water on the remaining tanks to prevent them from catching fire.
“The risk we had announced happened, and the blaze of the second tank compromised the third one,” the governor of Matanzas province, Mario Sabines, said on Monday.
The fire started overnight on Friday when one of the tanks was struck by lightning. Sabines described the spread of the blaze as an “Olympic torch” moving from tank to tank. Each of the tanks reportedly has a total capacity of 300,000 barrels (47,696,188 liters).The smoke from the Matanzas Supertanker Base could be seen from the capital of Havana, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.
Minister among the injured
Authorities have found one body and at least 17 firefighters remain missing. Over 120 people, including Energy Minister Livan Arronte, were injured in the blaze, which also triggered multiple explosions. Several of the injured remain in critical condition.
Venezuela and Mexico have deployed specialist teams to the Cuban port alongside firefighting equipment and chemicals. The authorities ordered thousands of people to evacuate, with others urged to wear face masks or stay indoors due to toxic smoke.
Matanzas is Cuba’s most important port for importing crude oil. Fuel stored at the facility is used to supply power plants throughout the island. The blaze comes as Cuba already faces fuel shortages and daily blackouts amid a deep economic crisis.
dj/nm (AFP, AP, dpa)