Fuel tanks collapse in Cuba, causing death and disappearances

cuba fuel fires matanza
Photo: Twitter/@gobhabana

For the fourth day in a row, Cuban authorities have mobilized Army helicopters and firefighting crews to deal with blazes caused by the collapse of fuel tanks in an oil terminal on the outskirts of Matanzas, a 140,000-people city less than 100 kilometers from the capital Havana. 

As of August 9, official sources had reported one death and over 100 people injured — including Cuba’s Mining and Energy Minister Liván Nicolás Arronte. At least a dozen firefighters are missing. 

The problem worsened on Monday after the blaze reached a third tank of crude oil in the facility. President Miguel Díaz-Canel said the government is evaluating strategies.

Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated from their homes so far, but local health officials claim no nearby cities have been affected by an enormous smoky cloud caused by the fires.

On Sunday, Matanzas Governor Mario Sabines said the effort to put out the flames was “very complex.” As the crisis escalated, Cuba began to receive experts and equipment from Mexico and Venezuela. Together, the first two tanks damaged by the fires had a capacity of almost 80,000 cubic meters of oil, per Cuban state-owned oil firm Cupet.

Though the level of damages to supply is yet to be determined and reported by Cuban authorities, the issue comes as the island is still reeling from a rough pandemic crisis fueled by U.S. sanctions. Que A year ago, the country also witnessed its most significant protests in nearly three decades. Fuel shortages helped spark the demonstrations last July.