Havana| A powerful explosion at a luxury hotel in central Havana has killed at least 22 people and injured 64. The Cuban President’s Office gave this information on Saturday. President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who visited the site of the explosion and a local hospital, said “the explosive was not a bomb nor an attack, but a regrettable accident,” Xinhua news agency reported.
According to the President’s Office, a gas leak is believed to be the cause of the horrific explosion at Hotel Saratoga.
Located opposite the island’s National Capitol building, the five-star hotel was preparing to reopen on May 10 as part of reviving the island nation’s tourism industry, which had been hit hard in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of now, the rescue work is still going on as the traffic has been diverted from around the hotel.
“Patients are currently being treated in eight health facilities, including two pediatric hospitals in Havana,” said Julio Guerra, head of the health ministry’s hospital services.
Havana’s governor, Reynaldo García, has stressed the importance of the solidarity of the population in the aftermath of the tragic incident.
Buildings near the hotel were also damaged by the blast, he said, adding that “thousands of people are voluntarily donating blood.”
Local media reported that the explosion was being investigated.