December 7, 2022

Cuba hotel blast death toll rises to 42

Men work on a crane at the remains of the Saratoga Hotel in Havana, on May 10, 2022, days after an explosion destroyed it and killed at least 42 people


Men work on a crane at the remains of the Saratoga Hotel in Havana, on May 10, 2022, days after an explosion destroyed it and killed at least 42 people – Copyright AFP ARDILES

Two more bodies were pulled Tuesday from the rubble of a Havana hotel destroyed in an explosion, taking the death toll to 42.

The ministry of health said another 54 people were injured and 17 of those are receiving hospital treatment.

The latest confirmed deaths were a 77-year-old woman and a popular local councilor.

Juan Carlos Diaz, 55, was held in high regard by local residents for his efforts to improve their lives.

“We felt everyone’s pain but especially his because he worked as a delegate in the moments that were necessary,” Havana resident Lazara Phinney told AFP.

The luxury Saratoga hotel in the old quarter of Havana was destroyed on Friday morning, seemingly due to a gas leak.

The five-star hotel was being renovated at the time and had no guests. It had been closed for two years, initially due to the coronavirus pandemic that decimated Cuba’s vital tourism industry.

But it had been due to reopen on Tuesday.

Roberto Enrique Calzadilla, a representative of the state Gaviota company that owned the hotel, said there were 51 workers on the site at the time of the explosion.

Of them, 23 died, three survivors are receiving hospital treatment, 22 are safe and three more are missing.

Preliminary assessments indicate that 80 percent of the hotel has been affected by the blast.

The explosion, which an official said happened while a gas tank was being refilled by a tanker truck, tore off large parts of the facade, blew out windows and destroyed cars parked outside the hotel.

The first four floors of the hotel were gutted.

The luxury property is known for having hosted celebrities such as Madonna, Beyonce, Mick Jagger and Rihanna.