The cause was probably a gas explosion
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel thanked the emergency services. “You are our heroes in these terrible times,” he wrote on Twitter.
The blast severely damaged the first four floors of the five-star Saratoga Hotel in central Havana. The dome of a nearby Baptist church collapsed, destroying parked cars. According to the government, a nearby primary school was also damaged and evacuated.
“We felt a huge explosion and a cloud of dust that reached the park (in front of the hotel), and a lot of people ran out,” Rogelio García, a bicycle driver, told AFP. Taxi. “There was a terrible explosion and everything collapsed,” said a woman with a face covered in dust.
According to initial findings, an exploding petrol tank was the cause of the devastation. A witness reported that the hotel was supplied with LPG at the time of the accident, reported Granma, the newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. Footage showed a tanker being pulled from the rubble. President Díaz-Canel announced investigations and security checks in other hotels to avoid such accidents in the future.
A Spanish tourist among the victims
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the famous five-star hotel a short walk from the Capitol has been closed for about two years. According to the operator, 51 employees were in the hotel at the time of the accident to prepare for the reopening scheduled for next Tuesday. At least 11 of them died and 13 other employees are missing, said a spokesman for the state-owned tourism company Gaviota.
According to official information, a Spanish tourist was among the victims. “A Spanish tourist died and another Spanish citizen was seriously injured in the Saratoga hotel explosion,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Twitter. “All our sympathy goes to the families and to all the victims and injured. Our full support also goes to the Cuban people.”
On its website, the 96-room “Saratoga” hotel boasted, among other things, for the “spectacular rooftop pool with panoramic views of the Cuban capital.” Stars like Madonna and Beyoncé as well as many foreign state guests have stayed at the house, which was last renovated in 2005, according to local media. Built in 1880 as a department store, the building was converted into a hotel in 1933.