Another 94 people were injured by the explosion that occurred last Friday. Cuban authorities investigate whether the cause of the accident was in a tanker truck unloading gas
Those who died in the explosion at the Saratoga hotel in Havana reached 40 this Monday, according to the count of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP). The figure has risen by nine people in the last 24 hours, once the rescuers have managed to access the double basement of the building, where it was suspected that part of the workers had been trapped.
Among the deceased, aged between 10 and 77, there were four minors and one pregnant. They were all Cubans, except for a 29-year-old woman of Spanish nationality.
The Minsap also reported that the number of injured rose to 94 people, of which 18 are still admitted to six Havana hospitals -among them, six in critical condition, seven in serious condition-. A total of 36 patients have been discharged in recent hours.
According to previous estimates, there could still be some people trapped in the rubble, since a dozen people were still being searched for this morning, according to local authorities. Since then, eight bodies have been found, but it has not been reported how many people are still being searched for in the rubble.
After more than 48 hours of uninterrupted work, firefighters, rescuers and emergency teams have managed to access the double basement of the hotel, where there were shops, a warehouse and several offices. The collapse of the floors of the ground floor and the first floor of the hotel onto the basement due to the explosion made rescue efforts extremely difficult.
Heavy machinery has faced many difficulties in carrying out operations, due to the risk of hitting the unstable structure of the building. The hopes of finding survivors among the hotel debris begin to diminish after 72 hours have passed since the accident.
The Cuban authorities have reiterated that the search will not stop until it is confirmed that no one remains under the rubble. “We will not finish working until the last worker that this family is waiting for at home does not appear,” the mayor of the Old Havana municipality, Alexis Acosta, told Efe from the vicinity of Saratoga.
The hotel was not operational at the time of the accident, but 51 workers were inside, preparing it for the reopening, scheduled for this Wednesday.
The Cuban government has reiterated on several occasions since the explosion occurred on Friday morning that it was a gas leak. A commission is investigating the facts. At the time of the explosion, a liquefied gas tanker truck was parked in front of the hotel and recharging a tank belonging to the establishment. It is believed that the hose could have a crack.
Another 17 adjoining buildings suffered the impact of the blast wave and in the next few days a technical evaluation will be carried out on three blocks and the hotel itself, to analyze whether they can be recovered or should be demolished.
The Saratoga was built in 1880 and from 1911 it functioned as a hotel. Its last restoration took place in 2005, when the building was reformed in depth. This five-star luxury accommodation is located on the iconic Paseo del Prado avenue, in the historic center of the Cuban capital, the area most visited by tourists who come to the island.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.