Cuba Fuel Depot Fire Enters Third Day; Injury Toll Mounts

Aug 07, 2022 by Bloomberg

Cuba struggled for a third day Sunday to contain a fire at a sprawling fuel depot on the northern coast that has left hundreds injured, at least one dead and cast a shadow over the island’s already struggling economy.

The fire at the Matanzas industrial complex that began Friday night after a lightning strike has left at least 122 injured and 17 missing, the presidency and state-run media reported. Late Saturday, officials said they had found a body at the compound.

The fire has affected two storage tanks, one containing 26,000 cubic meters of petroleum and another containing some 50,000 cubic meters of fuel oil, according to the provincial government of Matanzas. Specialized firefighting crews from Mexico and Venezuela are on the ground trying to tame the blaze and keep it from spreading to nearby tanks and installations.  

State-run Prensa Latina reported that the fire did not pose an immediate threat to the operation of the nearby Antonio Guiteras 225 MW power plant, one of the country’s largest.

Read More: Fire at Cuban Fuel Depot Rages, Leaving at Least 77 Injured

“This morning was, once again, difficult,” the Cuban presidency wrote on Twitter early Sunday. “Firefighters continue fighting the intense fire as help comes from friendly countries. Today will be a pivotal day in our fight for life.”

 

Even before the fire, Cuba was struggling to keep the lights on amid power plant breakdowns and fuel shortages -- rolling blackouts have sparked rare protests. On Sunday, the Union of Electrical workers said the island would not be able to meet demand and requested public institutions implement energy-saving measures.  

The fire comes as Cuba’s annual inflation hit 29% in June, largely driven by the devaluing peso and fuel and import costs. Cuba’s economy grew 1.3% in 2021 after seeing two years of record declines.

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By Jim Wyss

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