Cuba asks for US technical assistance to clean up oil fires

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HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba said Friday it had sought US technical help in cleaning up after a massive fire at an oil storage facility that killed 16 firefighters.

Experts from Cuba and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency met virtually on Wednesday to discuss cleanup operations at the Matanzas supertanker port east of Havana in what the Cuban State Department described as a “professional and fruitful exchange.”

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Cuba requested a review of its efforts to date and access to innovative U.S. techniques and procedures from the EPA, other agencies and oil companies, the State Department said.

A lightning strike ignited an oil storage tank in Matanzas three weeks ago, and the fire spread to three more tanks. It was extinguished after a week and the government said it was the worst fire in the Caribbean island’s history.

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The United States considers communist-run Cuba, just over 100 miles off the coast, an enemy and has maintained a comprehensive sanctions regime on it since shortly after former leader Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

At the time of the fire, the United States provided technical advice by telephone.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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