The inferno destroyed nearly half of Cuba’s largest fuel depot and caused blackouts across the island
A massive fire at a Cuban oil facility has finally been extinguished after burning for five days, leaving the fuel storage site devastated amid fears the damage will impact the island’s ability to produce electricity.
Interior Ministry officials appeared on state-run television on Tuesday to announce that firefighters had beat the blaze at the Matanzas oil facility, though offered no details as to how much fuel was lost over the last five days or an estimate for overall damages.
“Today we have managed to control the fire,” said Rolando Vecino, the ministry’s head of transport, while standing at the scene.
The fire was sparked by a lightning strike last Friday, which immediately ignited one of the site’s eight fuel tanks. By Saturday, the flames had spread to a second tank, causing a series of powerful explosions, while two more containers were compromised over the next two days.
One firefighter died and 14 others went missing following Saturday’s blasts, and at least 125 were injured in the blaze, five of whom remain in critical condition.
Due to the flames, Cuba’s government-run power company said it was forced to shut down a major plant servicing the island’s western region on Monday afternoon, prompting reports of blackouts.
Speaking to Reuters near the scene of the fire, first responder Rafael Perez Garriga said “The situation is going to be more difficult” due to the impacts on electricity.
“If the thermoelectric plants are supplied with that oil [previously stored at Matanzas], we are going to have the whole world affected, it is electricity and it affects everything,” he added.
Under heavy American sanctions, the embattled Communist nation faces frequent fuel shortages and blackouts in some regions, with the scarcities helping to drive a series of heated protests last summer.
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