Writing BBC News World4 hoursSource of the image, ReutersA raging fire unleashed in a fuel depot has generated an emergency in Cuba.A lightning strike struck a fuel storage tank near the city of Matanzas on Friday night, where a fire that spread to a second tank this Saturday, the island government reported. Emergency services have tried to put out the fire that has left 17 firefighters missing and at least 121 injured, three of whom are in critical condition. The unlocated firefighters “were in the closest area, trying to prevent the spread,” the Cuban presidency reported on Twitter. Nearly 1,000 inhabitants of the surrounding area have been evacuated, reported the governor of Matanzas, Mario Sabines. province, 130 km from Havana, the capital of the country, reported through Twitter that there have been several explosions. “There is no accurate information about the magnitude of the incident, but it will undoubtedly be one of the saddest accidents.” Television footage showed helicopters spraying seawater and sand over the burning area to prevent the fire from spreading, as well as actions to cool the rest of the tanks and prevent possible explosions. Image source Reuters Image source ReutersThe crude deposits have a capacity of 50,000 cubic meters each. That is comparable to 15 Olympic swimming pools. They are located at the Super Tanker Base in an industrial area of Matanzas, near the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, one of the largest in Cuba. The base has a system of lightning rods, but the discharge was of such magnitude that it was not able to protect it, explained Rigel Rodríguez, director of the Territorial Division of Marketing of Fuels Matanzas, to the official Cubadebate site. How did the fire start? It began on Friday around 7:00 p.m. local time (23:00 GMT), when an electrical discharge fell on one of the tanks. The strong wind made the extinction work difficult and carried the flames to a second deposit that exploded at 07:00 local time (11:00 GMT) on Saturday. Until Saturday afternoon the fire had not been controlled. Image source, Getty Images The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, said that “there is no history of a fire of such magnitude at the Supertanker Base.” He called on other countries to help the island put out the fire. The president and other members of the government visited the wounded at the Faustino Pérez de Matanzas provincial hospital. “Most of the injuries are burns to the lower limbs, necks of firefighters, workers from different areas and troops who worked to put out the fire, especially,” said the website of Granma, the official newspaper. Support from other countries Using the hashtag #FuerzaMatanzas, President Díaz-Canel tweeted on Saturday afternoon in gratitude to the nations that heeded his call for help. “We express deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, which have promptly offered solidary material aid in the face of this complex situation. We also appreciate the offer of technical advice by the United States,” the president wrote. Cuba’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, wrote on Twitter that the US government “offered technical advice, already in the hands of specialists for proper coordination.” “We deeply appreciate the condolences and expressions of help from various organizations and people from the US due to the incident in Matanzas,” said the Vice Chancellor. Image source: Getty Images Caption: Several firefighters are missing. Image source: Getty Images Caption: A helicopter pours water on the fire produced by the impact of lightning on a fuel tank, in the city of Matanzas, 130 km east of Havana. The US Embassy in Havana explained in two tweets, in Spanish and English, that your country can help the Caribbean nation. “We are in contact with Cuba about the incident in Matanzas. In the meantime, we want to make it clear that United States law authorizes entities and organizations and Americans to provide aid and response to disasters in Cuba.” For their part, Cuban and Mexican media reported this Saturday that the state company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) will also support the Cuban government in operations to control the fire. Image source, Getty Images Photo caption, The large column of thick black smoke produced by the fires can be seen from Havana, more than 100 km away. Remember that you can receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss out on our best content.
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