Sunday, December 4

A powerful explosion destroys the Saratoga hotel in Havana

A powerful explosion shattered this Friday the Hotel Saratoga in Havana, located in the center of the Cuban capital, according to local media, which reported damage to a nearby residential building and school. The detonation has caused at least 4 deaths and 13 disappearances, according to authorities who point to a gas explosion as the most likely cause.

The incident occurred around 10:50 a.m. (local time), with no evidence of the causes yet. The official Cubadebate portal also includes this event, echoing images published on social networks. The explosion caused the collapse of part of the building’s façade, also affected by a fire that generated a large column of white smoke, visible from much of the city.

The ground floor, the first and second floors of the six-storey building were seriously affected by the explosion, which knocked down the façade, causing a shower of rubble on the street. The mountain of debris on the sidewalk exceeds the height of a person. Upper floors were also damaged.

The hotel is located in the old Havana, near the Capitol. Troops from the emergency and military services have moved to the area. Many onlookers have also gathered around the building. The city authorities have not yet reported the causes of the explosion or possible personal injury.

“There was a tremendous noise and a cloud of dust that reached the park (opposite), many people ran away,” Rogelio Garcia, a pedicab driver who was passing just at the time of the explosion, told AFP. The uniformed officers cordoned off the area with yellow tape. President Miguel Díaz-Canel arrived at the accident site, where there were destroyed vehicles, while firefighters searched through the rubble.

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“What was felt was a shocking explosion and all that fell apart,” said another woman who still had dust on her face and did not want to give her name.

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The Saratoga is housed in a neoclassical-style building built in 1880 and operating as a hotel since 1933. Its last restoration took place in 2005, according to official media. With five stars, the hotel was considered one of the most luxurious in the city.

The establishment is located in the Paseo del Prado, one of the main avenues of Old Havana, in the historic center of the Cuban capital.

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