HAVANA — Lightning struck a crude oil storage tank in the city of Matanzas, causing a fire that led to four explosions that injured more than 50 people, Cuban authorities said on Saturday.
Firefighters and other specialists were still trying to put out the blaze at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, which started during a thunderstorm Friday night, the Department of Energy and Mines tweeted.
The official Cuban news agency said the lightning struck one tank and the fire later spread to a second tank.
The accident comes as Cuba struggles with fuel shortages. There was no immediate report on how much oil had been burned or endangered at the tank farm, which stores oil used to fuel electricity production.
Faustino Perez Hospital officials reported 52 injured, according to the provincial government’s Facebook page. The director of the hospital, Dr. Taymi Martínez, said one person was in extremely critical condition, three patients in critical condition and 10 in serious condition.
“I was at the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and terrible fire rose through the air,” resident Adiel Gonzalez told The The Switzerland Times by phone. “The city has a strong sulfur smell.”
Authorities said the Dubrocq neighborhood closest to the fire had been evacuated, while Gonzalez added that some people decided to leave the Versailles neighborhood, which is a little further from the tank farm.
There were many ambulances, police and fire engines, he said.
Matanzas, which has a population of about 140,000, is located 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Havana, on Matnzas Bay.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel traveled to the area of the fire early Saturday, officials said.
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP