One firefighter has died, and 16 others are missing since the fire at the port of Matanzas began Friday night after a lightning strike. Authorities say more than 100 others have been injured, including 24 people who remain hospitalized.
The lightning strike initially caused a fire at just one oil tank, but that quickly spread early Saturday to a second one, triggering explosions at the facility. The explosions led to the fatality and the missing firefighters.
Officials say the fire spread to a third storage tank late Sunday and is now threatening a fourth one out of the original eight tanks at the facility.
The governments of Mexico and Venezuela have sent teams to help local firefighters put out the blaze.
Authorities are using planes, helicopters and water cannons to try to stop the fire.
Governor of Matanzas province Mario Sabines told state TV that the containment effort is “very complex,” according to Agence France-Presse. He said teams are preparing an operation to douse the flames with foam but said “this could take a while.”
Officials say more than 5,000 people have been evacuated from around the port.
The port of Matanzas receives crude oil and fuel imports, much of which are used to generate electricity on the island.
Smoke from the fire can be seen in Havana, located more than 100 kilometers away, according to The Associated Press.
Health officials are warning residents to wear masks in smoke-affected areas and to avoid the rain. Officials say the cloud of smoke contains poisonous chemicals, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide.
The fire comes as Cuba is already facing shortages of electricity and fuel that has led authorities to impose energy blackouts. The power outages and economic troubles helped spark anti-government protests last year.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.
Voice of America