A third depot at the Matanzas fuel storage base in western Cuba caught fire and collapsed Monday (8), authorities said, as they tried to contain the fire that broke out last Friday (5) and left at least one dead and 16 missing .
The fire on the outskirts of Matanzas, a city of 140,000 people 100 kilometers east of Havana, started after lightning struck one of the eight tanks that make up this fuel storage facility.
About 5,000 people were evacuated from the outskirts of the disaster region, officials said.
On Monday, provincial governor Mario Sabines told state television that a third tank had collapsed.
“The third tank also collapsed after fuel leaked from the second, further worsening the situation overnight,” he said.
He noted that the situation was “very complex”, with “three tanks on fire” and the area of fire “quite a long way”.
Sabines said “teams” from Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela lined up to distribute the firefighting foam, which “may take a while.”
“The work to fight a fire that won’t give way will intensify. Another crucial day,” the Cuban Presidency said on Twitter.
According to the stateowned company Cubapetróleos, the first tank affected contained 26 million liters of crude oil, or 50% of its capacity.
With 52 million liters of heating oil inside, a second tank exploded at midnight on Sunday, scattering some of the burning contents.
The third tank also had a capacity of 52 million liters, but officials did not say how much crude oil was inside.
A 60yearold firefighter died in the fire, according to the latest medical report. A total of 125 wounded were treated, of whom 24 are still hospitalized, five of them in critical condition and two in serious condition. Most have burns.
Health officials said they continued intensive monitoring for respiratory and other illnesses that could be linked to the toxic elements.
“So far, no increase in these diseases has been detected in any of the provinces,” said the Ministry of Health, which recommended that vulnerable populations wear a mask in smoke concentration areas and avoid exposure to the rain in those places.
Relatives of the missing met with President Miguel DíazCanel on Sunday at a hotel in Matanzas, where they are being treated by doctors and psychologists.
“My son did his duty, he took a step forward,” the mother of a 19yearold firefighter who was at the base of the supertanker early Saturday morning when the fire broke out at the second depot, told AFP.
The disaster comes as the island is struggling to meet energy needs with an aging power grid and persistent fuel shortages.